168 million for 13 solar projects

The U.S. Department of Energy on Thursday announced it will invest $168 million in 13 solar technology projects in the next three years as a move to bring down the cost of solar energy.

The U.S. government’s goal is to increase the photovoltaic solar power capacity from 240 megawatts to 2,850 megawatts by 2010. DOE estimates that such capacity would reduce the cost of solar electricity to $0.05 to $0.10 per kilowatt-hour. The current level is $0.18 to $0.23–a price that is not competitive with conventional electricity, which usually falls below $0.10 per kilowatt-hour.

Companies chosen for funding included Konarka, Solar Power, BP Solar, Miasole, Nanosolar, United Solar Ovonic, Practical Instruments, Amonix, Boeing, Dow Chemical, General Electric, Greenray, Powerlight, and SunPower.

DOE’s biggest fundings are directed to companies developing thin-film technologies. Thin-film manufacturers BP Solar, Miasole, Nanosolar, and United Solar Ovonic received funding of about $20 millions each. The reason for this was the worldwide shortage of silicon that photovoltaic solar panels are made of. Thin-film companies try to make more panels with less silicon.