US Department of Energy invests $2.2 million in new solar start-ups

Solar success stories come not only from big, established companies but also nimble and innovative start-ups. The US Department of Energy (DoE) has recently announced its support for 3 such promising start-ups in the PV space through its Solar incubator program.

The beneficiaries include two software firms, SolarNexus and Grenability, as well as circuit-maker CelLink, who received a total of USD $2.2 million in funding. 

The latest monetary awards represent the eighth round of funding from the DoE’s SunShot initiative. Leveraging USD $1.8 billion of private funding since 2007 and generating $18 for every dollar of public money spent, the SunShot Incubator program is perhaps one of the most successful solar incubator programs anywhere in the world.

The long-term target of the SunShot program is to push solar electricity costs to about $0.06/kWh, which will put the US on a trajectory to generate 27% of its electricity through renewables by 2050.

SunShot has so far been doing this by reducing the financing costs for solar, the most recent example being its loan guarantee for the Ivanpah concentrated solar power (CSP) project, the world’s largest CSP plant.

However, with banks and investors increasingly opening their coffers to fund the solar industry, the US Department of Energy has shifted its focus from reducing financing costs to reducing hardware and soft costs of solar, such as permitting and installation. The nature of these new SunShot beneficiaries reflects the changing focus.

San Francisco-based Grenability received the largest chunk of funding (USD $1 million) to develop a reporting platform that enables customers to find the best solar payment plan by comparing predicted and actual annual savings. The company also aims to develop a certification program to help solar installers with bid preparation costs.

Another California-based start-up, CelLink, came second with USD $704,000 awarded by the DoE to develop a circuit the company claims will reduce the cost of producing high-efficiency solar panels by 10% through savings on material costs.

Berkley-based SolarNexus Inc secured slightly less than USD $0.5 million to develop a set of apps to enable the various types of software used by solar contractors to communicate with each other, reducing labor and customer acquisition costs for solar installers.

Top Image Credit: US Department of Energy

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Nitin Nampalli