U.S. government will spend up to $122 million for solar energy research

The Department of Energy will provide as much as $122 million over five years for advanced solar energy research at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

A multidisciplinary team of scientists will study what’s known as artificial photosynthesis – methods of generating energy from the sun the same way plants do. Finding a way to emulate plants, deputy energy secretary Daniel Poneman said, "would be a game changer, reducing our dependence on oil and enhancing energy security."

Researchers hope to move solar energy research from the lab to the real world. An integral part of their work – assuming it moves from the theoretical to the practical realm – will be the commercialization of artificial photosynthesis. "The ultimate goal," Berkeley Lab director Paul Alivisatos said, "would be to deploy an artificial photosynthetic system across a large geographical area."

The grant news is welcome for solar power proponents. The U.S. government spends far less on alternative-energy research (as a percentage of gross domestic product) than China; as a corollary, China’s solar sector is booming. To remain competitive in the solar space, many argue, the U.S. will have to ramp up its research spending – a move it appears to be making.ADNFCR-2111-ID-19908096-ADNFCR

Author: Nate Lew

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