Following President Trump’s (R) solar tariffs on imported solar panels earlier this week the Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the $3 million American Made Solar Prize to help bring solar panel manufacturing back to the US. The prize is intended to new innovations in US PV manufacturing and processes.
The new funding from the Energy Department’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) comes days after Trump announced tariffs of 30 percent on silicon solar panels and cells imported from Asia and other countries that have come to dominate the photovoltaic module market in the US. A controversial move that the solar industry and others have said will cost the US more than 20,000 jobs this year.
“The United States possesses the talent, expertise, and vision to surpass the rest of the world in solar technologies and forge a new solar energy landscape around the globe,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “The American Made Solar Prize will galvanize our country’s entrepreneurs, allow them to utilize technologies and innovations developed through DOE’s early-stage research and development, and, ultimately, bring new American-made products to market.”
The new prize is aimed at entrepreneurs, universities, energy incubators, and the Energy Department’s national laboratories. It aims to help innovations in the solar space gain private investments and reach a position where they can scale up commercially. The awards will be administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
The Energy Department singled out some potential technologies that could benefit from the award, including small-batch prototyping to speed innovation cycles. The program also aims to encourage ongoing connections with both corporate and venture capital sources, which it said is “key to bringing the crucial investment and financial instruments needed in the later stages of commercial scaling.”
The Energy Department has continued investing in solar power, funding up to $400 million in solar projects and technologies last year, the department claimed. However, it did not clarify how the money was invested.
While it’s encouraging that the Energy Department continues to invest in solar power and innovations, the amount of federal funding for manufacturing solar panels is far less than the billions that China has invested in its solar manufacturing plants, which has allowed it to make significant gains in the worldwide solar market. Whether the US can really compete with that at this point remains to be seen.
For instance, GT Research, in a piece entitled “Did Trump’s Solar Tariffs Just Launch a US Manufacturing Renaissance?,” noted that some solar manufacturers plan to expand in the US, but the investment isn’t likely enough to a spur large-scale manufacturing boom in the country.Tweet