The 2022 Solar Manufacturing Incubator Funding Opportunity, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), seeks to develop next-generation solar technologies and strengthen American solar manufacturing. To do so, the prize helps accelerate the commercialization of innovative product ideas that enable continued solar cost reductions, especially in cadmium telluride (CdTe) photovoltaics.
In an effort to underground approximately 10,000 miles of power lines in high fire threat districts, PG&E is looking for ways to increase the efficiency and decrease the cost of undergrounding. In certain areas, however, soil conditions, geological formations or challenging topography may make tunneling efforts nearly impossible. Additionally, excavation in many of these challenging areas (e.g., water crossings, biologically sensitive sites) triggers lengthy permitting processes that further increases timelines and cost.
- Ability to traverse multiple terrain types at-surface without triggering typical permitting requirements for underground infrastructure
- Proven ability to provide resiliency and wildfire mitigation benefits commensurate with undergrounding infrastructure
Category 3: At Surface Alternatives
Certain topographies, terrain types (e.g., granite), water crossings and culturally/biologically sensitive materials present at undergrounding sites tend to make proposed tunneling efforts difficult or impossible. When tunneling does proceed in these areas, the project typically requires a more stringent permitting process with longer lead times or more costly construction methods. While best efforts are made in the design phase to avoid these constraints, in some cases it is not feasible to sufficiently alter route design to avoid these areas and the associated additional costs or extended permitting period.
To avoid disturbing sensitive landscapes (including water crossings) and to reduce the need to dig into dense rock types, we are looking for solutions that offer at-surface alternatives to underground wires at locations that fit this profile. Potential solutions could include surface mounted infrastructure that does not require digging (e.g., K-rails, surface troughs) or shallow dig alternatives to minimize disruption and to facilitate easy monitoring of the underground infrastructure.
|Industrywide Market Gap
|Potential Solution Category
|In certain conditions, underground
construction costs remain exorbitantly high
and / or permitting requirements for
underground infrastructure can delay
project progress for over a year
|At-surface or level-grounded
construction methods (e.g., K-rails)
Known approaches not of interest
- Procedural / management solutions are not of interest.
- Software-based solutions are not of interest.
Key success criteria
- Demonstrated improvement over current state-of-the-art technology
- Same or better wildfire risk reduction relative to undergrounding at a 35% lower cost
- Deployable over water crossings or rocky terrain at grade
- Commercially deployable within 3 years