U.S. Awards $27 Million to Reduce Cost of Solar Energy Systems

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded about $27 million to nine companies developing technology aimed at making solar energy more affordable.

The agency said its long-term goal is to cut the cost of utility-scale solar projects by 75 percent by 2020, to $1 a watt, according to a statement today.

Making solar systems more cost-effective would help meet President Barack Obama’s goal of generating 80 percent of U.S. electricity from renewable energy, natural gas, nuclear and so-called clean coal, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a conference call today.

The energy department awarded $20.1 million in grants under its SunShot program to companies that are working to reduce the costs of solar energy.

North Lexington, Massachusetts-based 1366 Technologies Inc. received $3 million; St. Paul, Minnesota-based 3M Co. received $4.4 million; Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries Inc. received $3.1 million; and Gloucester, Massachusetts-based Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates Inc. and Plainview, New York-based Veeco Instruments Inc. each received $4.8 million. The final amounts may vary, and the agency said it may award a total of as much as $20.3 million.

Four California companies were awarded $7 million under the department’s Photovoltaic Solar Incubator Program, which supports the commercialization of emerging solar technologies.

Pasadena-based Caelux, San Jose-based Solexant Corp. and Menlo Park-based Stion Corp. will each receive $1 million to develop viable prototypes over the next year. Santa Clara-based Crystal Solar Inc. will receive as much as $4 million to develop a pilot stage manufacturing process.