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California offers US$15m to improve solar PV

The California Solar Initiative (CSI) has released a second solicitation for grants to improve solar photovoltaic (PV) production technologies and innovative business models.

A total of US$15 million is available to any individual, business, public entity, non-profit institution, university or national laboratory, with funding of US$200,000 to US$3m per applicant. Each solar PV project must have at least 25% match-funding, although funding from related activities under the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act may qualify as matching funds under this solicitation.

The goal of the CSI research, development, demonstration and deployment programme is to build “a sustainable and self-supporting industry for customer-sited solar in California” and is administered under the oversight of the California Public Utilities Commission.

The CPUC, in accordance with Senate Bill 1 that was signed by Governor Schwarzenegger in August 2006, established the CSI programme and allocated US$50m for solar research, development, demonstration and deployment (RD&D) projects.

The goal of the overall California Solar Initiative is to install 1,940 MW of installed solar energy capacity by 2016 and a self-sustaining solar market in the years beyond. The research funding is designed to move the market from the current retail solar price of US$9/W ($0.30/kWh) to levels that are comparable to the retail price of electricity. It also wants solar distributed generation to grow from 40 MW per year now, to 350 MW per year.

The first grant funding solicitation for the solar PV programme was issued in July with US$15 m available for the goal of integrating solar PV into the utility grid by addressing the near-term integration of energy efficiency, demand response and storage along with solar PV. Proposals were submitted until August and awards are expected to be announced by December.

This second solicitation focuses on improved PV production technologies and innovative business models. The deadline for applications is 13 January, and grants will be approved by CPUC by April. Eligible technologies include solar and other distributed generation technologies that employ (or could employ) solar energy for generation or storage of electricity or to offset natural gas usage.

The CSI has 7 principles for its R&D programme:

  • Improve the economics of solar technologies by reducing technology costs and increasing system performance;
  • Focus on issues that directly benefit California and that may not be funded by others;
  • Fill knowledge gaps to enable successful, wide-scale deployment of solar distributed generation technologies;
  • Overcome significant barriers to technology adoption; take advantage of California’s wealth of data from past, current and future installations to fulfill the above; provide bridge funding to help promising solar technologies transition from a pre-commercial state to full commercial viability; and
  • Support efforts to address the integration of distributed solar power into the grid in order to maximise its value to California ratepayers.

The CSI plan allocates up to 25% (US$8.1 m) of its funds to solar production technologies and up to 20% (US$6.5 m) to business development and deployment. 

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity