PV Research & Development Activities

Sandia targets its solar photovoltaic (PV) research efforts toward removing barriers to wide-scale deployment of PV technologies in the U.S. electricity sector. Our research results in tools and methods to accurately predict PV plant performance, and in parameters for deploying PV systems on the grid in a safe, reliable, and cost-effective manner. Since the 1980s, Sandia research has resulted in numerous advances in inverter technology, PV performance modeling, and renewable grid integration. Explore our research areas below:

Sandia conducts research in grid integration and advanced inverters to help address technical barriers to large-scale deployment of solar photovoltaic (PV) generation in grid-tied power systems. The lab focuses on research and development activities in three key areas:

  • transmission and distribution grid integration
  • advanced inverter technology
  • interoperability and cyber-security

Uncertainty about a PV system’s total lifetime energy production can result in a high perception of risk for investors, which translates into a high cost of capital for PV project investments. Equipment failures and degradation also increase the levelized cost of energy and can negatively affect system safety. Sandia’s research in PV performance and reliability aims to reduce these uncertainties by developing best practices across the industry. Our lab focuses on research and development activities in four key areas:

  • PV array and inverter performance modeling
  • PV reliability and availability predictive modeling
  • field monitoring of PV technologies
  • solar resource assessment

As PV material and technology costs continue to fall, non-hardware balance-of-system costs, or “soft costs,” represent an increasingly larger portion of installed PV system costs. Sandia conducts cross-cutting research and development activities in the program areas described above to address soft costs in the following areas:

    • permitting
    • inspection
    • interconnection process
    • utility operations
    • financing and real estate
    • operations and maintenance
    • codes and standards

The future improvement of PV technologies will rely on the discovery and application of innovative materials and new cell, module, and system designs that can meet changing market demands for cost, performance and lifetime. Sandia leverages its deep engineering foundation from decades of nuclear weapons reliability research and applies this experience to challenging problems facing the PV industry. In addition, with its world class silicon, III-V multi-junction, and thin film research fabrication facilities, Sandia develops new technologies that will enable fundamentally new applications for PV. Our lab focuses on research and development activities in five key areas:

    • materials synthesis
    • materials characterization
    • predictive materials modeling
    • semi-conductor fabrication (silicon and III-V multi-junction)
    • advanced manufacturing