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Core Calls

The DuraMAT Core Call process will grow DuraMAT's expertise, tools, and access to facilities while contributing key results that will help to increase PV module reliability and performance.

DuraMAT Core Call Process — Annual Submission Review

Purpose

The DuraMAT Consortium brings together DOE national lab and university research capabilities with the photovoltaic (PV) and supply-chain industries to accelerate a sustainable, just, and equitable transition to zero carbon electricity generation by 2035 through our five core objectives: development of a central data resource for PV modules, multi-scale and multi-physics modeling, disruptive acceleration science, forensic tools for fielded modules, and materials solutions for more durable, reliable, and resilient modules. DuraMAT leverages the decades of experience, expertise, and world-class facilities at the national laboratories to create a “one-stop-shop” for timely solutions to critical barriers limiting module reliability and durability. In its first five years, DuraMAT has become a trusted partner for the US industry.

The core objectives have been defined in partnership with DuraMAT’s Industry Advisory Board (IAB) and are long term research objectives that are expected to continue through DuraMAT 2. Selection and funding of specific projects however are dynamic, allowing the consortium the flexibility to address the most current and pressing industry concerns. DuraMAT funding supports research projects through a number of different competitive processes described in this TWP. All of the core objectives are focused on the DuraMAT goal of accelerating a sustainable, just and equitable transition to zero carbon electricity generation by 2035 by addressing these two questions:

  1. Which materials and module designs will enable sustainable, high energy yield 50-year modules, and how do we ensure that these new modules are not going to fail prematurely?
  2. What triggers wear out, defined as a rapid increase in degradation at end of life, and what are the characteristics, rates, and mechanisms of long term degradation in PV modules?

In close collaboration with the IAB, DuraMAT 2 has identified understanding which materials and packaging designs will enable high energy yield modules with the potential for 50-year lifetimes and identifying long term degradation mechanisms and wear out failures as our highest priorities. Building confidence in 50 year modules requires an understanding of early failures and end of life wear out. Our planned work in DuraMAT 2 includes:

  • De-risking high yield modules and screening them for weaknesses that lead to early failure
  •  Identifying the triggers and dominant contributors to wear out failures
  • Understanding the role of polymeric materials in wear out and long term degradation
  • Continued study of bifacial modules, glass glass packaging, and impacts of high energy yield module design
  • Continued development of new accelerated testing methods, modeling approaches, and scalable forensics
  • Development of materials solutions and designs to enable new applications and address known risks
  • Development of data science tools and methods to quickly identify trends in reliability and technologies

Techno-economic analyses quantify the potential value and risk for new material solutions and designs and de-risking projects. Both the long term and the early stage de-risking projects will leverage our cutting edge data analytics and processing tools, along with our access to historical and streaming field performance data at the laboratories and from the PV Fleets Project.

For this call, proposals are intended to be 1 - 3 year efforts, starting in Oct. 2021 and ending by the end of Sept. 2024. The DuraMAT Consortium is currently divided into five core objective areas: Central Data Resource, Multi-Scale, Multi-Physics Modeling, Fielded Module Forensics, Disruptive Acceleration Science, and Materials Solutions. Proposals should leverage this structure and build on the resources established in FY17 – FY21. Descriptions of these core objectives are available at https://www.duramat.org/core-objectives.html. Proposals should directly address the research questions above and the challenges of making a 50 year module and system, having confidence that that module may indeed last 50 years, and knowing which components must be field repairable or replaceable in order to achieve the 50 year goal. During the 2020 Fall Workshop, DuraMAT participants and the Industry Advisory Board (IAB) identified five critical research outcomes and expected key results for DuraMAT 2.0 to accomplish that are the focus of this call (listed below). Proposals may leverage several core objectives and topics or focus in a single area.

  1. Evolve the DuraMAT DataHub into the Central Data Resource for PV
    1.  DataHub contains data from all DuraMAT projects, is scalable, and contains indexable data sets (doi, good metadata, license for use, FAIR)
    2. DuraMAT develops publicly available, open source data tools that directly address stakeholder needs
    3. DuraMAT conducts and disseminates quantitative analyses on topics such as: module reliability, sustainability, and economics
  2. Create a Multi-Scale, Multi-Physics Model
    1. Development of validated modeling capabilities to de-risk high energy yield module designs and materials, including multiscale, multiphysic modeling of bifacial modules and glass/glass packaging
    2. Develop experimentally validated models for long term degradation of polymers and polymeric interfaces and identification of the most likely contributors to wear out failures
    3. Development of models for long term degradation studies and validation of accelerated testing
  3. Develop Disruptive Acceleration Science
    1. Development of accelerated testing capabilities to de-risk high energy yield module designs and materials, including bifacial modules and glass/glass packaging
    2. Demonstration of an accelerated testing method(s) capable of identifying materials and design field failures that are not captured by existing standardized tests
    3. Demonstration of detection of an unanticipated material or module weakness(es) using a test derived from outdoor field-use conditions
    4. Develop an accelerated testing method to study the initiation of wear out and key material degradation modes for wear out
    5. Validate an accelerated test method not yet adopted in the PV industry and benchmark relative to popular test methods
  4. Develop Fielded Module Forensics
    1. Pioneer new non-destructive/ field compatible methods to evaluate the failure modes and mechanisms associated with long-term wear out
    2. Development of materials forensics capabilities to de-risk high energy yield module designs and materials, including bifacial modules and glass/glass packaging
    3. Validate accelerated test protocols against field failures using a combination of structural, chemical, and mechanical characterization
    4. Use lab scale analysis and characterization to provide feedback for PV materials and components, including: backsheet, cell, encapsulant, glass, gridlines, interconnects, solder bonds, etc
  5. Develop Module Material Solutions
    1. De-risk innovative materials using the DuraMAT DataHub, multiscale modeling, accelerated and field testing, and/or materials forensics
    2. Enable emerging architectures such as flexible PV
    3. Development of sustainable materials solutions include repairs, component replacement, remanufacture, reuse, and design for recycling

In addition to the core objective areas the DuraMAT IAB identified a list of priority research areas for DuraMAT 2.0. The highest ranked priorities are listed below. PIs are encouraged to consider these topics when developing their proposals:

  • Reliability of new cell technologies
  • Predictive tools for long term degradation studies
  • Characterization tools for modules in the field
  • Highly accelerated lifetime testing development
  • De-risking emerging packaging designs and materials
  • Packaging or interconnect material substitution
  • Reliability of high power density modules
  • Case studies on fielded module degradation
  • Circularity and sustainability of modules
  • Module level power electronics

Additional topics (below) are also in scope but ranked as a lower priority by the DuraMAT IAB will also be considered.

  • Module Material data library
  • Climate specific reliability risk assessment and testing
  • Development and reliability of materials for module repairs
  • Thin film (non-silicon) module reliability
  • AR and/or AS coatings
  • Field studies at the Labs
  • Development of new packaging materials
  • Module mounting

We note that proposals focused on system performance, balance of system, or connectors are not of interest for this solicitation because they are covered under the SETO FY22 Lab Call. Successful proposals will be expected to have a mid- to long-term impact on addressing the DuraMAT goals by answering the DuraMAT questions, leveraging the results and capabilities of DuraMAT to date, and creating effective links between core objectives at the national laboratories. Proposals must have a well-defined work plan with clear yearly milestones and deliverables that support the DuraMAT Key Results listed in this solicitation. Proposals are encouraged to include industry participation and should address problems or
challenges identified as longer-term research needs by the PV industry.

The DuraMAT Consortium supports research opportunities in PV modules, focusing on packaging, interconnect, module materials, and module design. Cell research at the sub-module level (e.g. absorber or contacts) is excluded. Studies of high efficiency cell degradation as a function of module packaging and design may be submitted if they are clearly differentiated from other funded programs in the SETO portfolio. For example, research may include innovative accelerated testing, novel packaging materials and design, simulations or modeling that predict the durability and degradation mechanisms of new materials or designs, new data analytics that connect accelerated testing to field performance, data and risk-based technology evaluation tools, and more.

All project proposals are required to include a plan to submit FAIR compliant data with the DuraMAT DataHub. All proposals including the development of software tools must include open sourcedevelopment and release with full documentation and an example or demonstration data set for use. Modeling proposals relying on proprietary or commercial software packages must commit to sharing methods, input data, boundary conditions, output data, etc. so their work can be replicated using alternative software packages to the extent permitted by license conditions.

Eligibility

Proposals must have a National Lab PI from a DuraMAT core partner lab (NREL, Sandia, or LBNL) or core participant lab (SLAC) and are encouraged to consider partnerships with DuraMAT core participant Universities (Stanford University (SU), and Arizona State University (ASU)). Proposals may include team members from industry, national labs, academia, etc. as subcontracts, but at least 70% of the funding must stay within the DOE national laboratories. More information on working with DuraMAT can be found at https://www.duramat.org/working-with-us.html . Cost Share is encouraged, but not required for this proposal call.

Proposal Format

Proposals must be submitted using the Word template available below. Proposals are strictly limited to five pages. References, 2-page resumes, letters of support, and current/pending support information should be appended to the proposal file and are excluded from the page limit. A template for current/pending support can be found at the end of the Word document. No information outside of the page limit will be considered.

Proposal Evaluation

Submitted proposals will be screened for adherence to the above guidelines and relevance to the targeted DuraMAT critical outcomes. Proposals that meet these criteria will be reviewed by technical experts on the DuraMAT Industry Advisory Board using the following criteria. Any members involved in a proposal will recuse themselves. Each proposal will be considered based on the following metrics:

Technical Merit (70%)

  • How effectively does the proposal address the DuraMAT goal of accelerating the transition to zero carbon electricity generation by 2035 by answering one or both of these questions:
    • Which materials and module designs will enable sustainable, high energy yield 50 year modules, and how do we ensure that these new modules are not going to fail
      prematurely?
    • What triggers wear out, defined as a rapid increase in degradation at end of life, and what does long term degradation look like in PV modules?
  • How does the proposal address the challenges of making a 50 year module and system, provide confidence that that module may indeed last 50 years, or provide knowledge to understand which components must be field repairable or replaceable in order to achieve the 50 year goal?
  • What is the potential impact of this work on the DuraMAT Goal identified above if it is successful?
  • How might the proposed work contribute to the achievement of the Key Results listed above?
  • How might the proposed work build on DuraMAT's core objectives and integrate with the existing network?
  • What is the likelihood that this research would be effectively leveraged by DuraMAT collaborators in the solar industry?
  • What is the plan for stakeholder engagement to use this research or build on the results from this work?
  • If the proposed work is unsuccessful, what can DuraMAT or the PV community learn?

Organization and Execution (30%)

  • Is the work plan clearly articulated and effective in achieving the goals of the project?
  • Are the milestones and deliverables clearly articulated and appropriate?
  • For proposals including characterization does the proposal provide a clear plan for sourcing fielded modules or fabricating samples to enable a meaningful comparison between samples?
  • What is the likelihood of the proposed work to succeed based on the budget and work period proposed?
  • Does the team have the skills and resources necessary to build this capability?
  • Does the proposal include a data plan that includes providing data meeting FAIR standards (www.go-fair.org/fair-principles/) to provide data sets and/or analysis tools to the DuraMAT DataHub?
  • Is this proposed effort differentiated from the research in other SETO-funded reliability projects (e.g. SETO lab call, PVQAT, PVRD, PREDICTS, etc.) and how does it compare to the current state of the art?

Proposal Selection

The DuraMAT industry advisory board will review proposals according to the merit criteria above. The DuraMAT Leadership Team will make programmatic recommendations based on those rankings to SETO, and the DOE SETO program manager will have final selection authority. DuraMAT anticipates making selections in June 2021 for work starting in October FY22.

Total Award Funding for this up to: $5,300,000
Estimated project funding: $100,000-500,000 per year for up to 3 years.

If selected for award, PIs will be responsible for submitting a budget package, completed website template, and 2 slide project summary.

Reporting requirements include quarterly reporting slides, quarterly milestone/accomplishments tracking, reporting of data and/or analysis tools to the DuraMAT DataHub, and participation in two DuraMAT workshops per year for the duration of the project. Travel to the two annual workshops is required. All projects are required to upload data to the DuraMAT DataHub and work with the data team to ensure full compliance with open data requirements. Please plan for these requirements in your budget.

All awards are contingent on a SETO award for the DuraMAT 2 Consortium.

Download the Proposal Template

Send completed proposals to duramat@nrel.gov by 11:59 p.m. MT on April 23, 2021.