The U.S. Department of Energy awarded The University of Toledo $5.7 million for two solar energy technology research projects.
Both projects involve the University collaborating with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and First Solar, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of solar cells and a company that originated in UToledo laboratories.It’s part of $128 million in grant funding the federal agency announced today it is awarding to 75 research projects across the country to advance solar technologies that will lower solar electricity costs while working to boost solar manufacturing, reduce red tape, and make solar systems more resilient to cyberattacks.
Media are invited to a news conference Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 2:30 p.m. in the UToledo Research and Technology Complex Room 1010. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur and Dr. Frank Calzonetti, UToledo vice president of research, will speak at the event.
The total federal funding awarded to northern Ohio today is $11 million with the addition of $3 million to Eaton Corp. near Cleveland. Representatives from Eaton are scheduled to attend the news conference at UToledo.
“Advancing global leadership in solar energy technology continues to be a critical focus of the University, and we are proud of the incredible progress and determination of our researchers,” Calzonetti said. “In the last few months alone, nearly $14 million in competitive federal funding has now been awarded to faculty and students working on cutting-edge solar technology in the UToledo Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization. Providing a strong research underpinning of our region’s solar energy industry is central to our mission.”
“Investments from the Department of Energy are yielding real results for ensuring a competitive 21st-century solar industry right here in northern Ohio,” Kaptur said. “Today’s competitively awarded grants highlight and support northern Ohio’s important role in the research and development of solar technology. Solar technology will be a monumental part of our economic and clean energy future, not only as a region, but as a nation and as a planet. Innovative institutions, including The University of Toledo and Eaton Corporation, both of which are national leaders in photovoltaics research, are moving the ball forward. As the chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, I will continue to prioritize Department of Energy programs that fund these important programs and grant opportunities.”
Building on its more than 30-year history advancing solar technology to power the world using clean energy, UToledo is pushing the performance of solar cells to levels never before reached.
The Department of Energy awarded UToledo $4.5 million to develop the next-generation solar panel by bringing a new, ultra-high efficiency material to the consumer market.
As part of the project, UToledo will work with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and First Solar to develop industrially relevant methods for both the fabrication and performance prediction of low-cost, efficient and stable perovskite thin-film PV modules.
Perovskites are compound materials with a special crystal structure formed through chemistry.
Dr. Yanfa Yan, UToledo professor of physics, Ohio Research Scholar Chair and leader of the project, has had great success in the lab drawing record levels of power from the same amount of sunlight by using two perovskites on top of each other that use two different parts of the sun’s spectrum on very thin, flexible supporting material.
Yan’s efforts have increased the efficiency of the new solar cell to about 23%.
“We are producing higher-efficiency, lower-cost solar cells that show great promise to help solve the world energy crisis,” Yan said. “The meaningful work will help protect our planet for our children and future generations.”
The Department of Energy also announced an award of $3.5 million to Colorado State University to work with UToledo, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, First Solar and the University of Illinois at Chicago on a project to improve the voltage produced by cadmium-telluride-based solar cells. The amount of the award in this project going to The University of Toledo is approximately $1.2 million. UToledo’s leader on this project is Dr. Michael Heben, UToledo professor of physics and McMaster Endowed Chair.
The grants come after the Department of Energy selected UToledo to host National Lab Day, which last month connected students and researchers with preeminent scientists from world-class facilities across the country to explore opportunities for additional partnerships.
This summer the U.S. Air Force awarded UToledo physicists $7.4 million to develop solar technology that is lightweight, flexible, highly efficient and durable in space so it can provide power for space vehicles using sunlight.
The U.S. Department of Energy also recently awarded UToledo physicists $750,000 to improve the production of hydrogen as fuel, using clean energy — solar power — to split the water molecule and create clean energy — hydrogen fuel.