Skip to main content
Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education Logo

The 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. This program is supported by The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE), Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO). This program is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE).

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 Solar Energy 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.

Meet an Innovator

  • Stephanie Keohane, Solar Innovator at Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority

    “Participating in the Solar Innovators Program has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me. The Program enabled me to engage collaboratively with Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) staff and commissioners to conduct research and implement measures to effectively integrate solar and other DERs. Over the past six months I have strengthened my technical expertise in evaluating and improving energy regulatory programs. I look forward to continue learning about electric utility regulation and honing my technical and analytic skills as I begin a full-time, permanent position with PURA.”

    —Stephanie Keohane, Solar Innovator at Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority
  • Pamela Johnson, Solar Innovator at Minnesota Public Utilities Commission

    “During my appointment, I researched the recently published IEEE Standard for Interconnection and Interoperability of Distributed Energy Resources with Associated Electric Power Systems Interfaces (IEEE 1547-2018). I also investigated how other states were working to incorporate that technical standard into their existing state regulations (California Rule 21 and Hawaii Rule 14). Of particular interest was how smart inverter functionality is going to be leveraged.”

    —Pamela Johnson, Solar Innovator at Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
  • Connor Birkeland, Solar Innovator at Seattle City Light

    "As a Solar Energy Innovator collaborating with Seattle City Light and the Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (and other associated federal departments), I had the opportunity to collaborate with two organizations regionally for their efforts to promote greater sustainability. During my 14-month tenure, from May 2018 to July 2019, I had the opportunity to both provide and gain expertise on numerous efforts at Seattle City Light."

    —Connor Birkeland, Solar Innovator at Seattle City Light

Appointment Details

  • Eligibility

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

    As a Solar 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 if you are selected for the opportunity.
  • Nature of the Appointment

    This program is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE).

    • ORISE is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) institute managed by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) through a contract between ORAU and DOE.
    • You will be considered a program Solar Innovator and will not enter into an employee/employer relationship with ORISE, ORAU, DOE, or hosting facility.


  • Appointment Information

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

    As a Solar Innovator, you will receive:

    • Stipend based on academic level and commensurate with qualifications.
      • Level 1 - Solar Innovator with a Bachelor’s degree will receive a stipend starting at $40,000.
      • Level 2 - Solar Innovator with a Master’s degree will start at $50,000. Solar 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: Appointments may not be deferred. 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).

    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.
    • Detailed expectations are provided to “Innovators” at the start of the appointment period.

    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

    There is no deadline for application submission. Applications will be reviewed as they are submitted. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year, so do not hesitate, 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 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 Solar Energy Innovators Program.
  • Current Resume/CV (2 page limit)
  • One (1) relevant letter of recommendation (optional)
    • The letter should address your academic record and potential for success as an Innovator, as indicated by communication and teamwork skills. While a letter of recommendation is not required to be considered, it may help reviewers gain a better understanding of your qualifications and interests.Letter of recommendation must be submitted on your behalf before selections are completed and offers are made.

Supporting materials must be uploaded as PDF files to ensure the document can be searched by Zintellect’s (ORISE application and selection system) search engine. Documents sent by email, postal mail, or fax will not be considered.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section includes frequently asked questions about the Solar Energy Innovators Program.

  • Applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year. There are several steps that must be completed before you can receive an appointment letter. The process between receiving your application and actual start date may vary. 

  • 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.

  • Solar 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 energy service providers.

  • 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