We conduct research and development (R&D) in solar power, including photovoltaics and concentrating solar power, to strengthen the U.S. solar industry and improve the manufacturability, reliability, and cost competitiveness of solar energy technologies and systems.

Photovoltaics

Sandia’s solar photovoltaic (PV) work is focused on developing cost-effective, reliable photovoltaic energy systems and accelerating the integration of PV technology in the United States and globally. The lab’s PV department provides the technical lead for systems integration and balance-of-systems manufacturing technologies as well as technical support to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in deployment and validation of PV systems for federal agencies, utilities, and other institutional users. Sandia assists industry and users by providing technical assistance, accurate performance measurements, component development and improvement, and system evaluation. A major thrust of the department is to evaluate and improve the performance, reliability, and cost effectiveness of systems and balance-of-systems components.

Sandia’s PV research staff work collaboratively with DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Program, the U.S. photovoltaic industry, other government agencies and national laboratories, and international organizations to increase the worldwide use of PV power systems by reducing cost, improving reliability, increasing performance, removing barriers, and growing markets.

Contributing to the advancement of PV technology through research in advanced PV technologies, such as III-V thin cells, and advanced small and thin c-Si.
The Grid Integration Program at Sandia National Laboratories addresses technical barriers to large-scale deployment of solar photovoltaic (PV) generation in grid-tied power systems.
The Photovoltaic (PV) Modeling and Analysis team addresses technical challenges to simulating the performance of PV systems in the field exposed to different weather and environmental conditions.
Supporting the development of new and improvement technologies and providing skilled testing and evaluation of all PV components, including cells, modules, inverters, and Balance-of-Systems (BOS).
The PV Systems Reliability program at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) evaluates the reliability of PV systems as a function of design, installation, components, and the application.
Sandia’s Market Transformation efforts exist at the intersection of technology, economics, and policy & regulations. We address market barriers and transactional costs of solar projects across the United States.
Sandia’s Solar Resource Assessment program researches and develops models and algorithms for estimating, predicting, and forecasting the solar resource.
View a listing of recent publications, listed by date.
Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) uses mirrors to concentrate a large area of sunlight, onto a small area. Electrical power is produced when the concentrated light is converted to heat which drives a generator.

In virtually all applications CSP is large power, on the order of 100 MW or larger, that is used by utilities to generate electricity and distribute to consumers. In a CSP plant, solar energy is converted to heat and the heat is used in a conventional power cycle or other heat engine to produce mechanical power and drive a generator.

Sunshine to Petrol (S2P)

The Sunshine to Petrol (S2P) program seeks to create a sustainable liquid fuels solution that can replace petrolium-based fuels on a large scale. Work currently centers on the production of synthetic fuels from carbon dioxide using solar energy.

Sandia’s Sunshine to Petrol (S2P) team seeks to address the critical national and global issues of growing energy consumption amid increased vulnerability and price volatility of petroleum supplies and climate change risks. The transportation and industrial sectors in the United States are deeply dependent on petroleum, a dominant energy source for these sectors and a driver of greenhouse gas emissions. An alternative energy carrier coupled to a sustainable energy source that can be used within existing infrastructure, distribution, and traditional petroleum-based combustion systems is necessary to assure national security, enhance U.S. economic competitiveness, demonstrate leadership in mitigating the risks of climate change, and promote a smooth transition to an energy-secure and diversified transportation mix.

MEPV concepts use microdesign and microfabrication techniques to produce miniaturized solar cells that are released into a solution similar to printing ink. This solution is then placed or ‘printed’ onto a low-cost substrate with embedded contacts and microlenses for focusing sunlight onto the cells. Sandia’s approach uses cells that are tiny in both thickness and lateral dimensions – as small as 14 microns thick and 250 microns wide. The thinness of the cells reduces material costs while enhancing cell performance by improving carrier collection and potentially achieving higher open circuit voltages.

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DOE EERE Technologist in Residence Pilot

The EERE Technologist in Residence pilot program is intended to catalyze strong national laboratory–industry relationships that result in significant growth in high-impact collaborative R&D. This pilot program’s goals are to

increase collaborative R&D between national laboratories […]

Sandians Win ‘Best Paper’ Award at Photovoltaic Conference in Japan

A research team that included Sandians Clifford Hansen and Joshua Stein (in Sandia’s Photovoltaic & Distributed Systems Integration Dept.) and Katherine Klise (in Sandia’s Geotechnology and Engineering Dept.) received a Best Paper Award for their […]

Sandia Research on PV Arc-Fault Detection Submitted for US Patent

Sandia National Laboratories/Tigo Energy researchers recently submitted an application for a US patent related to research on arc-fault detection and circuit interruption in solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Sandia’s patent-pending methods, filed as Identifying an Arc-Fault […]

PV Plant Performance Technical Briefing Published in PV Power Tech

The state of the art in PV system monitoring is relatively simplistic, relying either on comparisons of outputs between various parts of the system (e.g., inverters) or on an evaluation of a performance metric that normalizes […]