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.

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 Labs High-Flux Solar Simulator with One-of-a-Kind Capability

The High-Flux Solar Simulator with automated sample handling and exposure system (ASHES) is a one-of-a-kind capability which can be used 24/7 with metal-halide lamps.  ASHES provides accelerated lifetime aging tests for materials under high-temperature/high-flux conditions.  A [...]

Sandia and EPRI to Host PV Symposium in May 2016

Sandia National Laboratories and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) are pleased to host the third PV Systems Symposium, May 9-12, 2016, at the Biltmore Hotel in Santa Clara, CA, on technical issues related to [...]

NREL and Sandia host PV Module Reliability Workshop, Feb. 23-25, 2016

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Sandia National Laboratories are jointly organizing the annual PV Module Reliability Workshop. This year’s event, to be held February 23-25, 2016, in Lakewood, CO, will bring together photovoltaics (PV) experts [...]

Sandia Defines Solar Variability Zones

Sandia Labs has defined solar variability zones by modeling solar variability across the country using a combination of ground measured and satellite derived solar irradiance measurements. The zones represent the magnitude of high-frequency (sub-minute) solar [...]