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U of Toledo, Dow Corning, await word on $46-million solar development grant

Ohio's status as a leader in photovoltaics could shine brighter should a $46 million US Department of Energy grant come through.

The $46 million grant, expected to be announced by early 2011, would be shared between the University of Toledo and Dow Corning Corp. Earlier this year, two paired to form the Solar Valley Research Enterprise (SVRE), which submitted the grant application to the DOE with wide support from the two states' governors, Congressional rosters and private industry.

The grant would be part of $125 million in funds available though the DOE's Photovoltaics Manufacturing Initiative, which seeks to establish three national centers of expertise in the field by 2015.

Split evenly between the SVRE partners, half of the funds would be used to establish the Photovoltaics Manufacturing Initiative Center on the Toledo campus, separate from the Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization based there, but working in conjunction with it.

The Wright Center was created in 2007 and supports research and test locations located at the University of Toledo, Ohio State University and Bowling Green State University.

"I tell people the SVRE would be like the Wright Center on steroids," says Rick Stansley, co-director of the Wright Center and chairman of the UT Board of Trustees.

He estimates a direct impact of 800 jobs added to the area, and an indirect impact six or seven times as large.

The partnership has already received grants from both Ohio and Michigan, including a $3.5 million grant from Ohio Third Frontier. Along with the Ohio "node" of the SVRE, Stansley said the grant money would be used to set up a similar center in Midland, Mich., near the corporate headquarters of Dow.

Both sites would work with a cluster of private companies, government labs and universities to further solar cell development, making it more competitive with traditional energy sources. The centers would also help guide new solar panel start-ups in the northwest Ohio-southern Michigan area.

Source: Rick Stansley, Wright Center for Photovoltaics
Writer: Dave Malaska

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