SunShot Grand Challenge: SUNPATH and the US Department of Defense

1366 Technologies, Soitec Solar, and Solar Junction are Scaling Up Nascent PV at Home (SUNPATH) in the USA.


Perhaps there wasn’t enough time for another announcement during the hectic SunShot Grand Challenge Summit and Technology Forum organized by the US Department of Energy (DOE) last week? Though alluded to in an early Wednesday presentation, the DOE waited until Friday, June 15, 2012, to announce the Photovoltaic Manufacturing Initiative (PVMI) Part II: Scaling Up Nascent PV AT Home (SUNPATH) awardees receiving $37 million over two years to fund three projects. The announcement was relegated to a webpage without a dedicated link or press release on the News & Blog sections of the homepage. Was this a deliberate attempt to downplay complementary awards intended “to support the initial ramp up to high volume manufacturing” post Solyndra?

Soitec SA (EPA:SOI) themselves announced “Soitec Solar awarded $25 million from U.S. Department of Energy for North American solar manufacturing facility in San Diego, California” on Monday. The $25 million SUNPATH award complements over $115 million of private investment arranged by Soitec Solar to accelerate construction and production at the 200 MegaWatt (275 MWp, MegaWatt-peak) capacity Concentrating PhotoVoltaic (CPV) module manufacturing plant in San Diego, California USA. Per Soitec, “The SUNPATH award will be finalized pending completion of the contract negotiations with the DOE.

The last statement may explain why 1366 Technologies has not yet issued a press release. Solar Junction appears to have preannounced their selection for the award without an amount in “Solar Junction Receives Award from Department of Energy”.

The $7 million SUNPATH award for 1366 Technologies complements $21 million in private investment to construct their first 40 MW scale production facility in Lexington, Massachusetts. 1366 Technologies will scale the existing demonstration process for their Direct Wafer technology to form 156mm (millimeter, ~6 inch) multicrystalline wafers “from molten silicon in a semi-continuous, efficient, high-throughput process that eliminates silicon waste.” In the SunShot Technology Forum poster shown, 1366 claimed the formed wafers had polysilicon material requirements of 3 grams per Watt (3g/W).

From SunShot Summit and Technology Forum

Solar Junction plans to expand annual multijunction CPV cell capacity from 5 MW to 40 MW in San Jose, California, and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania USA, with the $5 million SUNPATH award complementing private investment totaling $15 million. Solar Junction will also use the project to continue technology development beyond their world record 43.5% efficient CPV production cell.

In her SunShot Grand Challenge keynote, US Department of Defense (DOD), Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment, Dr. Dorothy Robyn discussed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) based partnership between the US Department of Energy and the US Department of Defense for the testing and validation of DOE selected SUNPATH technologies.

Dr. Robyn said:

The company that will be named today as the one winner of the SUNPATH competition, we will be demonstrating that very cutting edge PV technology on two military installations at the 1 MegaWatt scale.
Fort Irwin in California is one, and they haven’t selected the second one.
It will probably be somewhere in the California High desert.

DOE will pay for the cost of the modules; we will pay for the balance of systems and the cost of installation. This is a huge win-win for us. We get cutting edge technology; DOE gets our rigorous approach to demonstration and validation.
And, at the end of the day, we are potentially a very, very large customer.

I think these must be either Soitec Solar or Solar Junction installations unless somehow both companies are cooperating on the projects? Of course, Soitec Solar is also developing multijunction CPV cells for internal use.

The three SUNPATH award companies were almost neighbors in the Scaling Up Production technology readiness level of the PV Pipeline at the SunShot Technology Forum. Solar Junction was next to 1366 Technologies as can seen on the left edge of the above poster.

Since Lehigh University is my undergraduate alma mater, I just say Go Bethlehem!


  1. admin says:

    Carlisle Construction Materials got a SunShot project award for extreme BOS.
    Not sure whose flexible panels those are. I could not identify them and moved onto things that mattered.
    Carlisle had a deal with UNI-SOLAR a few years back.

  2. guest says:

    They are MiaSole.

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