United States: New Solar And Fuel Cell Technology Funding Opportunities From The Department Of Energy

Stephen Bolotin is a Public Affairs Advisor for Holland & Knights Washington, D.C. office.

Taite McDonald is a Partner for Holland & Knights Washington, D.C. office.

Following on the passage of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 omnibus spending bill last month, which increased funding for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) by 11 percent over FY 2017, the DOE has begun to issue funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) for innovative energy research and development (R&D). Specifically, the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has opened new FOAs targeting solar energy and hydrogen fuel cell development. What follows is an overview of these new opportunities followed by some general application guidance derived from our experience working with these program.

FY 2018 Solar Energy Technologies Offices R&D FOA

The EERE's Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) is requesting applications for early-stage R&D projects that improve the performance and flexibility of solar energy technologies – including solar photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) – and that contribute to U.S. electric grid reliability and resiliency. Up to $105.5 million in total funding is available for awards ranging from $200,000 to $4.5 million, depending upon the R&D topic.

This FOA targets four topic areas:

  1. Advanced Solar Systems Integration Technologies – including subtopics in adaptive solar grid integration, solar observability, behind-the-meter solar integration and approaches that accelerate the transfer of new integration technologies from the lab into the real world.
  2. Concentrating Solar Power Research and Development – including subtopics in small innovative CSP projects, advanced CSP collectors, advanced power cycles, advanced CSP thermal transport system and components and approaches that accelerate the transfer of new CSP technologies from the lab into the real world.
  3. Photovoltaics Research and Development – including subtopics in small innovative PV projects; increased affordability, reliability and manufacturability of PV cells, modules and systems; collaborative cross-cutting PV research; and innovative approaches that accelerate the transfer of new PV technologies from the lab to the real world.  
  4. Improving and Expanding the Solar Industry through Workforce Initiatives – including subtopics in expanding the solar workforce and digital adaptation training for distributed energy resources on the grid.

Key deadlines:

  • Letters of Intent (LOI) are due May 4 at 3:00 p.m. ET
  • Concept Papers are due May 9 at 3:00 p.m. ET
  • Full Applications are due June 26 at 3:00 p.m. ET

FY 2018 Hydrogen and Fuel Cell R&D FOA

The EERE's Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) is requesting applications for early-stage R&D to advance hydrogen and fuel cells for transportation and other application. Up to $39 million in total funding is available for awards ranging from $1 to $2.5 million.

This FOA targets three topic areas:

  1. Energy Materials Network (EMN) – ElectroCat – which aims to accelerate the development of platinum group metal-free (PGM-free) catalysts and electrodes.
  2. H2@Scale – including energy production and hydrogen fueling R&D, electrolyzer manufacturing R&D and breakthrough infrastructure.
  3. Innovative Concepts – including subtopics in early-stage, innovative fuel cell membrane R&D and innovative reversible and liquid fuel cell component R&D.

Key deadlines:

  • Concept Papers are due May 7 at 3:00 p.m. ET
  • Full Applications are due June 12 at 3:00 p.m. ET

H&K Insights

Historically, EERE subprogram offices have released separate FOAs that address different priorities in solar or fuel cell technology development. For the first time, these subprograms have issued solicitations that combine various funding efforts into a single FOA for FY 2018. Notably, EERE issued these FOAs shortly after passage of the FY 2018 omnibus spending package. In an effort to provide a more streamlined and consistent R&D strategy, EERE intends to issue single FOAs for the subprogram offices going forward, shortly after budget guidance from Congress is provided in future FYs.

We encourage applicants to begin outreach to strategic partners, including DOE National Laboratories, as soon as possible. Indeed, DOE likes to fund projects that support their labs, and such partnerships can add credibility and increase the odds of success. We also encourage applicants to carefully review the solicitation's strategic objectives; an application must be well-aligned with these programmatic objectives to be competitive.

Lastly, Holland & Knight's Government Energy Finance Team is always available to assist companies throughout all stages of the application process.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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