I have written about President Obama’s Climate Action Plan before. But I’m writing about it one more time to emphasize the importance of meeting the Obama administration’s goal of significantly reduced emissions by 2020 while sustaining the growing energy demand of our country. One way to meet this goal is through solar energy.
The U.S. Department of Energy announced the “SunShot” initiative in 2011 in an effort to lower the cost of solar energy technologies by 2020 and enable their widespread deployment without the need for subsidies. The initiative included $27 million for nine projects to build the U.S. supply chain by developing new solar energy technologies and manufacturing processes and incubating solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing companies to shorten the commercialization timeline for emerging PV technologies. These efforts were only the beginning of the SunShot initiative toward the goal of lowering the total cost of utility-scale solar energy installations by 75 percent.
The recent announcement by DOE to fund an additional $60 million worth of solar energy projects under SunShot is a refreshing push to lower those costs. Outlined are three approaches that support the goals of the Climate Action Plan:
- Cost reduction: $12 million will be used to reduce costs by supporting commercialization efforts, and improving hardware performance. Projects include scalable PV mounting systems, plug-and-play systems to streamline installation processes, and materials and manufacturing innovations that enable solar cells to reach theoretical efficiency limits.
- Electrical grid integration: Nearly $8 million will support projects that seek to allow solar energy technologies to connect to the electrical grid effectively and cost-efficiently. This includes accelerating solar energy installations by independent electric utility companies, and advancing efforts in financing, training, and design standardization to further proliferate the adoption of solar energy technologies.
- Growing the solar industry workforce: To ensure the next-generation workforce continues to lead and innovate, approximately $6 million will be funneled into much-needed training programs, engineering curricula, and educational opportunities, giving our country an edge in solar energy.
While it will still require a fair amount of effort to ensure that solar energy is widely adopted and cost-competitive with other energy options, SunShot is a major pathway to realizing a clean energy future, and a pacifier for rising energy demands. DOE’s recent announcement proclaims that the cost of a solar energy system has dropped by more than 70 percent in the last three years. It’s pleasing to know that our efforts are making a difference.