The Department of Energy and a few contrarian venture investors continue to support manufacturing and commercializingsolarpower products in the U.S.

Building standard commodity-grade silicon solar panels in the U.S. is a difficult goal to support -- so investors and the Department of Energy are looking to fund innovative technologies and business plans that don't expose American companies to the competition of commodity solar production in China.

As part of the DOE's SunShot Initiative’s aim to achieve cost-competitive solar energy by 2020, the agency is providing $13 million to these firms to support manufacturing innovation:

  • Abengoa Solar (Lakewood, CO) was awarded $2 million to demonstrate automated manufacture of concentrated solar power (CSP) troughs.
  • PPG Industries (Allison Park, PA) was awarded $2.1 million. In partnership with Flextronics, this award aims to fund the design and demonstration of an automated module assembly process.
  • Solaria  (Fremont, CA) was awarded $2 million to reduce costs for its low-concentration PV module, again, by better automating the manufacturing process.
  • SolarWorld Industries America (Hillsboro, OR) was awarded $2.4 million for "an advanced light management system" incorporated into the PV module.
  • Suniva (Norcross, GA) was awarded $4.5 million to lower the cost of its high-efficiency silicon PV cells to meet the SunShot 2020 target of less than 50 cents per watt module cost.

The DOE also discerningly cited SEIA-GTM Research market data stating that the U.S. installed 930 megawatts of PV in Q3 of this year, up 20 percent over Q2, making it the second-largest quarter U.S. PV history.

That's why it would seem to be a good time to invest in solar technology. Pricing has stabilized, though the market is still growing and still volatile.

1366 Technologies just won $2.5 million from return investor Vorndran Mannheims Capital (formerly Ventizz Capital Partners), capping its C round at $17.5 million and bringing its total VC raised to $64.5 million. 1366 is in the kerfless silicon sector.