Although solar power produces only 1% of the total electricity output for the U.S., the DOE is initiating a new effort to drastically cut solar costs and stimulate international competition. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has plans to reduce costs up to 75% by funding $27 million in projects to advance the development, commercialization, and manufacturing of advanced solar energy technologies.
PV array installations currently cost around 22 cents per kilowatt hour, with federal and state incentives able to reduce that to below 15 cents. The DOE’s initiatives would drive costs to only 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, or $1 per watt.
The solar funding, dubbed the SunShot Initiative, will work to bring down the full cost of solar – including the costs of the solar cells and installation – by focusing on four main pillars:
Solar cell and array technologies
Electronics that optimize installation performance
Efficiency improvements during manufacturing processes
Installation, design, and permitting for PV systems
The program will also eliminate solar subsidies before the end of the decade and focus on steps to streamline and digitize local permitting processes that will reduce installation and permitting costs.
By improving solar cell performance and slashing the costs associated with installation and permitting, Sunshot will remove a significant barrier to green power.
"The SunShot Initiative will spur American innovations to reduce the costs of solar energy and re-establish U.S. global leadership in this growing industry," Chu says. "These efforts will boost our economic competitiveness, rebuild our manufacturing industry, and help reach the President’s goal of doubling our clean energy in the next 25 years."