Photovoltaic (PV) technologies – more commonly known as solar panels – generate power using devices that absorb energy from sunlight and convert it into electrical energy through semiconducting materials. These devices, known as solar cells, are then connected to form larger power-generating units known as modules or panels. Learn more about how PV works.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) supports PV research and development projects that drive down the costs of solar-generated electricity by improving efficiency and reliability. PV research projects at SETO work to maintain U.S. leadership in the field, with a strong record of impact over the past several decades. Approximately half the world’s solar cell efficiency records, which are tracked by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, were supported by the DOE, mostly by SETO PV research. SETO is working toward a levelized cost of $0.02 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for utility-scale solar photovoltaics, $0.04 per kWh for commercial PV systems, and $0.05 per kWh for residential rooftop PV systems.

In September 2021, DOE released the Solar Futures Study, a report that explores the role of solar energy in achieving these goals as part of a decarbonized U.S. electric grid. Learn more about SETO’s goals.SETO LCOE 2030 PV Goals Chart

 Within SETO’s PV research area, efforts are focused on several topics. Learn more about them below.

         SETO funding for PV research is awarded for innovative concepts and experimental designs across a range of technology approaches that show promise to achieve significant cost reductions and enable faster wide-scale deployment. These projects focus on concepts that could achieve commercial success in the short term or as long as 10-20 years. This creates an innovation ecosystem in the United States, supporting the long-term growth of the solar industry. Projects in this research area are managed by the photovoltaics team and the manufacturing and competitiveness team. Learn more about SETO’s funding programs and current funding opportunities. To see all PV projects funded by SETO, visit the Solar Energy Research Database.