Building on President Obama’s broad-based plan to cut carbon pollution and support clean energy innovation across the country, Energy Secretary Moniz announced today about $60 million to support innovative solar energy research and development. As part of the Department’s SunShot Initiative, these awards will help lower the cost of solar electricity, advance seamless grid integration and support a growing U.S. solar workforce.
“The tremendous growth in the U.S. solar industry over the past few years is helping to pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future that protects our air and water and provides affordable clean energy to more and more Americans,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Responsible development of all of America’s rich energy resources is an important part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and will help ensure America’s continued leadership in clean energy innovation.”
Lowering the Cost of Solar Through Hardware and Soft Cost Innovations
Over the last three years, the cost of a solar energy system has dropped by more than 70 percent – helping to give more and more American families and businesses access to affordable, clean energy. Today, Secretary Moniz announced a series of awards to further reduce costs – including soft costs like permitting, installation and interconnection– and to improve hardware performance and efficiency.
Since 2007, more than 50 American start-ups have participated in the SunShot Incubator Program – attracting more than $1.7 billion in private sector backing, or nearly $18 for every $1 of government support. As part of today’s announcement, the Energy Department is investing more than $12 million across 17 companies to help commercialize a wide range of technologies and services – from online tools that can map a rooftop’s solar potential in seconds to automated installation systems for utility scale photovoltaic plants.
The Energy Department is awarding approximately $16 million to four projects that will help develop solar devices that near the theoretical efficiency limits of single junction solar cells, or about 30 percent efficiency. The Department is also awarding about $7 million to develop stronger, more reliable solar components as well as dependable performance tests for microinverters and microconverters. They provide easier installation and more effective capture of energy for both photovoltaic and concentrating solar power systems.
Together, these awards are helping to accelerate breakthroughs in solar energy conversion efficiency and performance – driving further cost reductions.
Seamless Grid Integration
During President Obama’s first term, the United States more than doubled generation of electricity from wind, solar and geothermal sources. To ensure America’s continued leadership position in clean energy, the President has set a goal to double renewable electricity generation once again by 2020. As the cost of solar continues to fall and deployment expands, seamless and efficient grid integration will help make variable clean energy resources even more affordable, while giving Americans more control over how they use energy in their homes and businesses.
The Energy Department is investing about $8 million to help utilities forecast and integrate high levels of renewable energy generation into the grid, while ensuring reliable and affordable power. For example, AWS Truepower will help California utilities feed cost-competitive distributed solar directly into the power grid, while the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association will help 150 U.S. counties deploy new solar capacity and model streamlined financing and installation processes for electric cooperatives nationwide.
Supporting America’s Growing Solar Workforce
The U.S. solar industry employs about 119,000 workers at more than 5,600 companies across every state. Since 2010, the solar industry has created nearly 20,000 new American jobs. To support this growing workforce and a new generation of clean energy leaders, the Energy Department is providing training for engineers and utility workers as well as student research opportunities.
As part of today’s announcement, the Department is awarding about $15 million to develop power engineering curriculum and launch four regional training consortiums. Led by U.S. universities, utilities, and industry, these consortiums will train the next generation of energy engineers, system operators and utility professionals.
The Energy Department is also awarding about $1 million to Delaware State University and the University of Texas at Austin to provide solar energy research and education opportunities to minority students.
The Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by the end of the decade. For more information, visit www.energy.gov/sunshot.
— Solar Builder magazine