DuPont today announced plans with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for a $9 million solar research program --- part of the company's overall effort in providing more mainstream solar photovoltaic (PV) products for commercial and residential applications. The DOE funding comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed earlier this year with the support of U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Ted Kaufman.
The three-year program is designed to accelerate commercialization of an ultra-thin protective film --more than 3,000 times thinner than a human hair -- that prevents moisture from degrading the performance of thin-film PV modules, a key challenge in the past.
Thin film PV modules are projected to be the fastest growing segment of the solar module industry because of their potential to reduce the cost of producing solar-derived energy --- helping solar energy become more competitive with other forms of energy generation. Thin film PV panels can be made with flexible plastic instead of glass, and can be bent and wrapped, offering greater versatility and easier integration into the roofing, windows or siding of a commercial or residential building. Environmental degradation can take place without glass protecting the sensitive portions of the module.
DuPont will provide $6 million and the DOE will contribute $3 million to the program.
"I was pleased to be at DuPont today to highlight the good work being done right here in Delaware," said Senator Tom Carper. "By developing cutting edge solar energy technology, DuPont continues to be at the forefront of the path to energy independence. DuPont is a world leader in these technologies and I could not be more proud of the work that they do."
"We are at a point in our history where we can no longer put off difficult decisions. Renewable energy is a necessity: Our job situation demands it, our economy demands it, and our national security demands it," said Senator Ted Kaufman, who came to Delaware in the 1960s to work for DuPont. "As a proud DuPont alum who now has this special opportunity in the Senate, I am thrilled with the leadership everyone here has exhibited."
"Addressing energy security is a monumental challenge that takes collaborations and partnerships -- no one sector or organization can do it alone," said DuPont Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer Linda J. Fisher. "Today marks the latest in a string of partnerships DuPont and the U.S. Department of Energy has collaborated in advancing sustainable energy innovations, including biofuels and photovoltaics. This particular technological advancement brings potential to accelerate the use of solar energy by making it more affordable, flexible and efficient in its application. We are prepared to move from the lab to pilot scale manufacturing."
Ultimately, the DOE funded program will help enable the broad, commercial production of flexible PV modules that are durable and lightweight with higher efficiency. The initial focus of the program is on Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) type thin film PV modules, however, the technology could be leveraged into other PV technologies and potentially into other industries.
DuPont has said it expects to nearly triple its annual photovoltaic sales to more than $1 billion in 2012 based on strong fundamentals for long-term revenue growth in the photovoltaic solar energy market, combined with the company's ability to deliver new technologies to the industry. Additionally, DuPont is a leader in providing energy efficiency solutions in the construction industry. For example, DuPont™ Tyvek® Weatherization Systems can help reduce building energy needs.
Previous DuPont and DOE partnerships include a 2003 joint research agreement to develop an integrated "bio-refinery" to use corn or other renewable resources - rather than traditional petrochemicals - to produce a host of valuable fuels and value-added chemicals. In 2007, President George W. Bush and then-Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman visited DuPont's Experimental Station in Wilmington to see first-hand the results of the DuPont-DOE partnership with cellulosic ethanol.
DuPont is one of about 25 technology companies nationwide receiving Recovery Act grants, which total $22 million to research or demonstrate projects that can help speed the use of solar photovoltaics to generate electricity. The federal agency's goal is for the solar technology to contribute equally to the power grid by 2015.
DuPont - one of the first companies to publicly establish environmental goals 19 years ago - has broadened its sustainability commitments beyond internal footprint reduction to include market-driven targets for both revenue and research and development investment. The goals are tied directly to business growth, specifically to the development of safer and environmentally improved new products for key global markets.
DuPont is a science-based products and services company. Founded in 1802, DuPont puts science to work by creating sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer, healthier life for people everywhere. Operating in more than 70 countries, DuPont offers a wide range of innovative products and services for markets including agriculture and food; building and construction; communications; and transportation.