NREL Senior Scientist Steve Johnston Receives American Solar Energy Society Award | New

Johnston is recognized for groundbreaking character work and fruitful collaborations


NREL Senior Scientist Steve Johnston

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Principal Scientist Steve Johnston has been selected as the recipient of the 2022 Hoyt Clarke Hottel Award from the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). The award recognizes outstanding leadership and significant contributions to the commercialization of solar energy technologies.

“The most exciting part of receiving this award is that it shows that our collaborations with industry are important and impactful,” said Johnston, who is a senior scientist on the microscopy and imaging team at NREL. “We’re doing research that business and industry can’t always take the time to do, and in the long term, we’re seeing momentum building, resulting in more durable and efficient PV modules.”

The award recognizes Johnston’s groundbreaking work in the development and commercial transfer of solar module characterization techniques.

“Over the years, we’ve worked with industry on developing characterization tools for solar cells and modules, and then deploying the techniques we’ve developed,” Johnston said. “With one of our partners, Tau Science, our prototype imaging tools have become a commercial product that other companies can now buy.”

These collaborations have resulted in new paradigms for characterizing modules in the field.

“Our partners can go into large, full-scale installations and characterize the modules, looking for defects or shipping damage as they install the modules,” Johnston said. “Later, they can compare the modules in the field with the first images to look for degradation, including degradation patterns and weather-related damage.”

Johnston’s receipt of this award represents the culmination of more than a decade of work at NREL. However, his interest in solar began long before he joined the lab.

“When I think back, even in grade school and middle school, I was interested in solar power. It’s always been my interest,” Johnston said. “Going to college, I need to know how solar cells work, so I studied semiconductor devices and engineering. And I think the biggest chance was going to the Colorado School of Mines for my Ph.D. and to get a student project here at NREL.”

Although Johnston’s interest in solar was lifelong, his enthusiasm for the field has not waned in the least.

“There have been so many changes over the years – looking back, solar wasn’t even a number on the energy chart of where the United States gets energy. And now, there’s a bit of yellow on this chart,” he said. “It’s definitely an exciting time to work in this field.”

Johnston was invited to accept the award in person at the ASES Solar 2022 National Conference, to be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 21-24.

“This will be my first in-person conference in two and a half years,” Johnston said. “I am very happy to go and accept the award in person.”

“Steve has an outstanding and sustained track record of combining characterization techniques in a unique and innovative way, and then engaging with industry to transfer technology and support the solar industry,” said Center Director Nancy Haegel. for Materials Science at NREL. “We are delighted for Steve and grateful to ASES for this recognition of his contributions.”