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The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Solar Energy Innovators Program supports early-stage research and development to improve the flexibility and performance of solar technologies that contribute to a reliable and resilient U.S. electric grid. The program is designed to provide opportunities for students, post-graduates, and faculty to participate in a hands-on experience that enable selected applicants to conduct practical research on innovative solutions to the challenges faced by public utility commissions, utilities, and grid operators as the levels of solar energy, as well as other distributed energy resources (DERs), increase on the electrical grid.

Solar Energy Innovators Program

The applicant must identify a host institution and potential mentor at a public utilities commission (PUC), utility, or grid operator currently conducting research in an area related to the integration of solar energy onto the electricity grid. DOE, EERE, ORAU, and ORISE do not match applicants with host institutions. Host institutions may seek potential Innovators that are eligible to apply to the program, but it is the potential Innovator, not the host institution or mentor, who submits the application and supporting materials for this opportunity. Selected applicants, referred to as “Innovators” herein, will participate for up to two years at a host institution on one or more topics related to the integration of solar energy with the electric grid.

Host institutions can be:

(a) An electric public utility commission,

(b) An electric utility operating in the US, or

(c) An electric grid operator in the US (including regional transmission organizations, independent system operators, and balancing authorities).

Host institutions are expected to commit to providing a mentor for the Innovator, as well as workspace, equipment, and resources needed for the Innovator to conduct his or her research. For a list of electric public utility commissions, electric utilities, and energy service providers visit Potential Host Institutions.

The EERE SEI Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO). The program is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). During the appointment, the Innovator will be considered an EERE  Innovator and will not enter into an employee/employer relationship with ORISE, ORAU, DOE, the host institution, or any other office or agency.

For questions about the program and/or whether your potential host institution is eligible, please contact ORISE via email to DOE-RPP@orise.orau.gov, and reference “EERE Solar Energy Innovators” in the subject line of your email.

For more information about SETO, visit https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/solar-energy-technologies-office.

What will I be doing?

You will get to conduct practical research on innovative solutions to the challenges faced by electrical utilities, energy service providers, and electric public utility commissions. Your research will help find ways to adapt these facilities to a system with increasing levels of solar and other distributed energy resources.

Why should I apply?

As an Innovator with the Innovators Program, you will

  • Enhance your education and training in solar energy technologies.
  • Increase your marketability.
  • Gain access to top scientists and state-of-the-art projects and equipment.
  • Gain insight into research and career opportunities.
  • Collaborate and learn from experts researching, developing, and testing emerging technologies.

Where can I find a potential host?

To assist in securing a host institution, visit potential host institutions (below) for a list of potential electric public utility commissions, electric utilities, and grid operators.

Appointment Details

  • Eligibility

    In order to qualify for an Innovators Program appointment, you must meet all outlined criteria for eligibility. Read more to learn about eligibility requirements.

    As a Innovators Program intern, you must:
    • Be a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) at the time of application.
    • Be at least 18 years old.
    • Meet one of the following conditions:
      • Level 1 – Have earned an undergraduate (Bachelor’s) degree in the past three years in science, technology, mathematics, engineering, public policy, business, law or other field relevant to solar integration.
      • Level 2 – Have earned a graduate degree (Doctorate or Master’s) in the past three years in science, technology, mathematics, engineering, public policy, business, law or other field relevant to solar integration.
      • Level 3 – Have earned an undergraduate or graduate degree in science, technology, mathematics, engineering, public policy, business, law or other field relevant to the position, and have post-degree experience in a technical or research position in a field applicable to energy innovation.
  • Selection Process

    Applications will undergo an eligibility check prior to review.

    • Eligible applications will be reviewed by stakeholders in the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO).
    • SETO will make final selection of Solar Innovators.
    • ORISE will notify you via email if you are selected for the opportunity.
  • Nature of the Appointment

    The EERE Innovators Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO).  The program is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). During the appointment, the Innovator will be considered an EERE Innovator and will not enter into an employee/employer relationship with ORISE, ORAU, DOE, the host institution, or any other office or agency. 



  • Appointment Information

    Appointments will be administered by ORISE. This section outlines the benefits you will receive as part of the Innovators Program and the conditions of the appointment.

    As an Innovator, you will receive:

    • Stipend based on academic level and commensurate with qualifications.
      • Level 1 - Innovator with a Bachelor’s degree will receive a stipend starting at $40,000.
      • Level 2 - Innovator with a Master’s degree will start at $50,000. Innovators with a Ph.D. will receive a stipend starting at $70,000.
      • Level 3 – The stipend amount will be based on the Level 2 rate plus a factor for years of relevant experience after the receipt of the degree.
    • Allowance of up to $10,000 for education and/or scientific activities
    • Health insurance allowance
    • Possible relocation travel up to $5,000

    Appointments are for up to two years. The initial appointment period is for 1 year. Extension of the appointment is subject to satisfactory progress toward completion of the project goals and availability of funds.

    Commitment: The start/end dates are flexible and decided upon by the Innovator and mentor once selected. An appointment involves a full-time commitment at the host institution.  

    Host institution:

    Appointments are subject to completion of arrangements between you and the host facility. Host facility can be:

    • An electric public utility commission,
    • An electric utility operating in the U.S., or
    • An energy service provider operating in the U.S. (including, but not limited to, independent system operators, balancing authorities, and retail electricity providers).

    To assist in securing a host institution, visit potential host institutions (see section below) for a list of potential electric public utility commissions, electric utilities, and energy service providers.

    Expectations:

    • You are expected to
      • Conduct research and maintain a full-time schedule at the host institution. You must avoid obligations that may interrupt your project plan during the appointment.
      • Adhere to ethical guidelines set forth by DOE and your host institution.
      • Perform professionally, demonstrate integrity and good judgment, and complete all project deliverables as identified in the innovator project plan and by the host institution.
    • Host institutions are expected to
      • Commit to providing a mentor for you, as well as workspace, equipment and resources needed for you to conduct your research.
      • Set expectations and provide them to you at the start of the appointment.

    Deliverables:

    You will also be required to write a final report about your experience and complete an online feedback form to help assess the effectiveness of the program. The final report is meant to be a summary of the overall appointment experience, including a description of the research project, accomplishments and the benefits received.

     

  • Timeline

    Applications are accepted quarterly and new postings are available each quarter with application deadlines of September 30, December 31, March 31, and June 30 deadlines. Applications are downloaded for review following the deadline. Subsequent selection process stages include telephone interviews with the applicant and mentor. The process from application submittal to Innovator start date is approximately 3 months. Apply Now!

Application Components

Your application should consist of the following components:

  • Complete Zintellect Profile
  • Letter of Commitment from your host institution
    • The letter should indicate the willingness of your mentor and the host institution to host you as an Innovator onsite for the duration of your appointment (up to two years). The letter should also include a description of the proposed project(s) that you will develop during the appointment.
  • Academic Records
    • You must submit records for the most recent degree or degree in progress. Unofficial transcripts or copies of your academic records provided by you or by your academic advisor from your internal institutional system may be submitted.
  • Application Questions
    • The application includes questions specific to the Innovators Program.


  • Current Resume/CV (2 page limit)
  • One (1) relevant letter of recommendation
    • The letter should address your academic record and potential for success as an Innovator, as indicated by communication and teamwork skills. 

Incomplete applications will not be considered. Supporting materials must be uploaded as PDF files to ensure the document can be searched by Zintellect’s search engine. Documents sent by email, postal mail, or fax will not be considered. If you have questions, please send an email to DOE-RPP@orise.orau.gov. Please list the reference code for the opportunity in the subject line of your email as EERE SEI.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section includes frequently asked questions about the Innovators Program.

  • Applications are accepted quarterly and new postings are available each quarter with application deadlines of September 30, December 31, March 31, and June 30 deadlines. Applications are downloaded for review following the deadline. Subsequent selection process stages include telephone interviews with the applicant and mentor. The process from application submittal to Innovator start date is approximately 3 months.

  • You must be a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident to participate in the program.

  • You must have completed a degree before your appointment period start date. We recommend that you submit your application at most 6 month from completing your degree and anticipated start date.

  • Unofficial transcripts or copies of the student academic records may be submitted at the time of application. You may be asked for copies of official transcript at the time of appointment to verify your academic status, if selected.

  • Innovators are selected by the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO). ORISE staff will prescreen applications to ensure that all required materials have been received and that the applicants meets all qualifications for participation in the program. Eligible applications are then reviewed by SETO subject matter experts. SETO makes the final decision for selected Solar Innovators and notifies ORISE. ORISE will notify you if you are selected for the opportunity.

  • Appointments are full-time for one year with possible extension up to a maximum of two years.

  • You are responsible for identifying and securing a host institution and mentor. To assist in securing a host institution, visit potential host institutions for a list of potential electric public utility commissions, electric utilities, and grid operators.

  • Please ensure that all of the necessary application materials have been received and that you have the necessary educational qualifications. Successful applicants will have a proposed project that is well thought out and clearly shows potential for innovative solutions. Applications should also include strong letters of commitment from their host institution.

  • You and your mentor(s) at the host institution will be responsible for any changes made to your project plan. Changes to your project plan should be reviewed by the mentor and should not fall outside of original scope of the appointment. Final approval and concurrence of the change in project plan must come from SETO.

  • Letters should be requested from individuals who can address your academic record and potential for success in this program.

  • If your address is outside a radius of 50 miles one way from your appointment location, you will be reimbursed for limited inbound and outbound transportation expenses.

  • Reasonable accommodations can be made if you intend to travel prior to the start of your appointment. These are handled on a case by case basis.

  • We do not advise you to do this. Doing so will may result in non-reimbursable expenses. Your appointment is not official until you formally accept the appointment offer.

  • You may apply for and are eligible to participate in different ORISE programs. To qualify, you must meet the eligibility requirements detailed for each program.

Questions? Contact Us

General Questions/Information

DOE-RPP@orise.orau.gov