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 Labs’ 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 Labs’ 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.

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP)

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.

CSP Videos

SunShot Solar CSP (Source: Department of Energy)

New Solar Power Technology: Could Get Power on Cloudy Days (Source: KOAT)

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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Sandia National Laboratories Experts Co-Author DOE Reports on Grid Integration and Concentrating Solar Power

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released On the Path to SunShot, a series of eight reports that takes stock of progress made halfway into the ten-year SunShot Initiative and highlights remaining opportunities for [...]

High-Temperature Falling Particle Receiver Reaches New Limits

At its National Solar Thermal Test Facility, Sandia National Laboratories recently completed a 3½-year project funded by DOE’s SunShot Initiative to develop a high-temperature falling particle receiver, in which sand-like ceramic particles are heated as [...]

Sandia Labs Presents Grid Integration Research at IEEE PES T&D

Sandia photovoltaics researchers Robert Broderick (right) and Matthew Reno (left) presented their grid integration research at the IEEE PES T&D Conference & Exposition in early May in Dallas, TX. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers [...]

Sandia Labs and EPRI Hosted the 2016 PV Systems Symposium

Hosted by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Sandia National Laboratories, this 3-day event in Santa Clara, CA, drew over 200 participants to learn about and discuss relevant issues surrounding PV performance, reliability, and [...]