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 uses a few spectral measurements to enhance PV performance models

The power generated by a PV cell depends on both the intensity and spectrum of the light incident on the cell. Silicon solar cells, for example, respond to both visible and near-infrared light, but differently: [...]

Fault Detection Tool Project: Automatic Discovery of Faults using Machine Learning

Advanced monitoring of photovoltaic (PV) systems can ensure efficient operations, but extensive monitoring of large quantities of data can be cumbersome for the individual analyst. To address this challenge, Sandia National Laboratories' Fault Detection Tool project [...]

Preliminary Results of Bifacial Project Released on the PVPMC

As reported on the PV Performance Modeling Collaborative (PVPMC), Sandia Labs is leading a three-year research project to study bifacial photovoltaic technology and performance. The project is sponsored by SunShot, a U.S. Department of Energy program. [...]

Sandia Labs and NREL Hosted Successful 2016 PV Reliability Workshop

Sandia National Laboratories and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) jointly organized the annual Photovoltaic Module Reliability Workshop. The February 2016 event attracted nearly 300 photovoltaics (PV) experts from national laboratories, industry, and academia to discuss advances in photovoltaic system [...]