Energy Commission Grantee Wins National Award for Solar Tracker

A company that developed a unique solar tracker with support from the California Energy Commission recently received a clean energy entrepreneur award from an agency in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

San Francisco-based Sunfolding received the Best Venture Award from DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center last month. NREL is the department’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development.

Sunfolding was selected from 30 national and international startups competing for the award. The company was recognized for developing an innovative tracker that uses compressed air and bellows instead of gears and motors to move solar panels as they follow the sun’s path across the sky to maximize solar efficiency. With fewer moving parts and no wearable surfaces, Sunfolding’s tracker is less expensive, more reliable, and simpler to operate and maintain than other trackers.

In 2015, Sunfolding received a $1 million Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) grant from the Energy Commission to develop the tracker. The EPIC program supports clean energy innovations, strategies, and applications that help the state meet its energy and greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

The company also received funding through DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy in 2013 and 2015. In 2016, Sunfolding received the department’s SunShot Initiative Solar Manufacturing Technology award to help scale up its manufacturing and automated assembly technique.

Photo courtesy of Gwen Rose of Sunfolding.

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The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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