The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the Deploying Solar with Wildlife and Ecosystem Services Benefits (SolWEB) funding opportunity, which will award $10 million for innovative solutions and strategies that maximize benefits and minimize impacts to wildlife and ecosystems from solar energy infrastructure. DOE is interested in projects that will produce results with broad relevance to solar stakeholders by establishing methods, technologies, models, best management practices, or resources that facilitate ground-mounted photovoltaic energy generation, including utility-scale and community solar or concentrating solar-thermal power that is compatible with surrounding wildlife. DOE is also interested in assessing and optimizing ecosystem benefits that solar energy facilities can provide, such as soil formation, pollination of food crops, and carbon sequestration.
The funding program has two topic areas:
- Wildlife-Solar Interactions. Projects will develop innovative methods or technologies for monitoring wildlife-solar interactions, maximizing benefits, mitigating adverse impacts on wildlife, and building data-sharing infrastructure regarding wildlife at solar energy facilities.
- Ecosystem Services from Solar Facilities. Projects will characterize, quantify, and/or optimize the ecosystem benefits from solar energy facilities. These projects will develop models, tools, or methodologies for assessing the cost and value of these benefits for use in siting decisions.
These research activities will help reduce barriers, costs, and timelines for the deployment of large-scale solar energy necessary to meet the Biden administration’s goals for achieving a decarbonized electricity sector by 2035. DOE’s recent Solar Futures Study found that meeting the goal could require as much as 5.7 million acres of land for solar energy development. While that is less than 0.3% of the contiguous land area in the United States, this expansion will increase the interactions between solar energy facilities and the surrounding environment and those interactions need to be better understood.
DOE expects to make between 4 and 8 awards under SolWEB, each ranging between $500,000 and $2 million.
All proposed projects must identify the necessary stakeholders to address the stated problem, including entities in decision-making roles required to implement proposed solutions and the communities that are impacted by these solutions. SETO seeks diverse teams of universities, federally funded research and development centers, nonprofits, community-based organizations, state agencies, local governments, and solar developers. Additionally, SETO encourages the participation of underserved communities and underrepresented groups.
To facilitate the formation of teams, SETO is providing a forum where interested parties can add themselves to a Teaming Partner List, which allows organizations that may wish to apply to the FOA, but not as the prime applicant, to express interest to potential partners.
Prior to submitting a full application for this opportunity, a concept paper is due on April 11, 2022 at 5:00pm ET.
SETO will host an informational webinar on March 8, 2022 at 2:00 pm ET to discuss the funding program and the areas of focus. Register for the webinar.
Learn more about this funding opportunity and other open funding opportunities within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.