March 9, 2007 9:44 AM PST

Konarka, 12 others land federal solar-energy funding

The U.S. Department of Energy on Thursday announced grants to solar companies and partners that could total up to $357 million over three years.

The projects are meant to lower the cost of solar power and to promote the solar industry in the United States.

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman announced the development projects in Lowell, Mass., the home of Konarka Technologies, a company developing low-cost, flexible solar material designed to coat a wide range of objects, from army tents to soda bottles.

As part of the U.S. Solar America Initiative, the Energy Department will set aside $168 million over the next two years in funding, subject to congressional appropriation. The grants are structured to invite contributions from partners in joint collaborations, which could bring the total value to $357 million over three years, according to the Energy Department.

Konarka's project will focus on making low-cost photovoltaic cells made from organic dyes more reliable, according to the company. Partners will include the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the University of Delaware. The first-year funding is expected to be $1.2 million, which could go to $3.6 million over three years if the team meets its goals.

Other companies selected for the funds include large industrial firms such as General Electric, Dow Chemical, BP Solar and Boeing.

The remaining companies--including Miasole, Nanosolar and SunPower--are smaller specialists developing solar power-generating technologies using techniques such as concentration, thin film materials, and more cost-effective manufacturing.

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