Energy moves the modern world. Available, reliable, affordable energy. Since the
Industrial Revolution, fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas—have powered immense technological progress. But supplies of fossil fuels are limited, and continued reliance on them may have significant environmental consequences.
Fortunately, there are alternatives. The most powerful one is right over our heads. We are bathed in the clean, virtually inexhaustible energy of the sun. Each hour, enough sunlight reaches Earth to meet the world’s energy needs for a year. To harvest this bounty, we need technology that efficiently converts the sun’s energy into forms we can use. Developing this ...view middle of the document...
Solar Thermal Technologies
The sun’s energy can be put to work in numerous additional ways. Solar thermal technologies provide electricity, hot water, space heating, and lighting. They can
be very cost effective—solar water heating is the least expensive form of solar energy—and can even work in tandem with conventional energy sources to improve the flexibility and reliability of the electricity they produce.
A Systems-Driven Approach
The Program uses a “systems-driven approach” to guide and assess its activities. This approach emphasizes the importance of how the many aspects of a technology
are related. For example, it considers how changes in a component—such as low-cost polymer frames for solar water heaters—affect an application or market. It also examines how changes in markets modify the requirements for component cost and performance, such as the impact of interconnection standards on the design of power inverters. The systems-driven approach enables the Program to do the following:
• Determine priorities within the Program.
• Identify key market sectors in which solar technologies can have significant impacts.
• Determine critical R&D to address technology barriers related to those markets.
• Develop standardized analyses to ensure that technologies meet cost, performance, and reliability targets.
The Solar Energy Technologies Program draws on the capabilities of numerous public- and private-sector partners. DOE national laboratories—the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Brookhaven National...