Solar Beyond Grid Parity: Spectrum-Efficient Solar Energy for Dispatchable Electricity or Fuels Workshop

ARPA-E hosted a workshop entitled “Solar Beyond Grid Parity: Spectrum-Efficient Solar Energy for Dispatchable Electricity or Fuels” on Thursday, April 11, 2013 and Friday, April 12, 2013 in Boulder, CO. 

This workshop sought to identify transformational research and development opportunities for inexpensive full-spectrum solar energy collection with integrated energy storage. Photovoltaic (PV) solar electricity enjoys rapidly declining costs and increasing production volumes, and the price has already reached parity with grid electricity in some locales. A new paradigm for solar systems will be needed after PV achieves widespread grid parity and reaches ~20% penetration in the U.S. electrical generation mix. At that point, the temporal variability of sunlight will lower the value of electrical power at times of high sunlight; the cost of electricity storage may still exclude PV from the baseload power market. Although concentrating solar power (CSP) can provide storage, it is not clear that simply collecting and storing heat for later use is the optimum approach to provide baseload or peak-shifted solar electricity.    The workshop aimed to envision innovative technological approaches and scientific advances needed to continue to lower solar electricity costs while also making solar energy available during cloudy periods, at night, or for use in the transportation sector. Our goal is not to improve PV or CSP technologies; industry and government R&D programs are advancing down today’s learning curves rapidly in both fields.  We will explore whether synergies between solar heat and solar photocarrier generation can exploit the full solar spectrum more efficiently and inexpensively than either CSP or PV alone, while enabling low-cost chemical, thermal or mechanical energy storage. This workshop will catalyze discussion around transformational technologies to build and maintain a robust U.S. solar energy industry after PV grid parity is reached.  The outcomes from this workshop will assist ARPA-E leadership in the development of potential programs that target key technological roadblocks relevant to the ARPA-E mission.    Proceedings from the meeting are summarized below. View the workshop agenda (pdf).   

Thursday, April 11, 2013

10:00 a.m.

Welcome and Opening Remarks

Eric Rohlfing, ARPA-E

10:10 a.m.

Workshop Background and Objectives

Howard Branz, ARPA-E

10:50 a.m.

High Temperature PV at Concentration

Jeffrey Gray, Purdue University

11:30 a.m.

Concentrating Solar Power Today and Beyond

Luke Erickson, Abengoa Solar

11:50 a.m.

Concentrating & Splitting Optics Toolkit

Eli Yablonovitch, UC Berkeley

12:15 p.m.

High Temperature Electrochemistry Toolkit

Sossina Haile, Caltech

12:35 p.m.

Introduction to Technology Opportunities Breakout

Howard Branz, ARPA-E

1:20 p.m.

Technology Opportunities Breakout:

·         Complete Spectrum

·         High Temperature PV

·         System Engineering

·         Dispatchability/Portability

3:00 p.m.

Report Back from Breakout Groups

3:40 p.m.

Introduction to Design Group Breakout I

3:45 p.m.

Design Group Breakout I

5:30 p.m.

Brief Design Group Report Back and Discussion

Friday, April 12, 2013

8:00 a.m.

Design Group Breakout II Introduction

8:10 a.m.

Design Group Breakout II

9:00 a.m.

Design Group II Report Back and Discussion

10:30 a.m.

Technology Metrics Breakout

11:15 a.m.

Technology Metrics Breakout Report Back

11:45 a.m.

Workshop Wrap-Up