Building on President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution and continue U.S. leadership in clean energy innovation, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz recently announced more than $53 million for 40 innovative research and development (R&D) projects that aim to drive down the cost of solar energy, tackling key aspects of technology development in order to bring innovative ideas to the market more quickly. Supporting the development of next-generation photovoltaic (PV) solar technologies and advanced manufacturing processes, and addressing both hardware and non-hardware “soft” costs of solar installation, these awards support advancements that will help reduce the cost of solar energy and make solar electricity more affordable and accessible for all Americans.
“As U.S. solar installation increases and the cost of solar electricity continues to decline, solar energy is becoming an increasingly affordable clean energy option for more American families and businesses,” said Moniz. “Today, the U.S. has 15.9 gigawatts of installed solar power—enough to power more than 3.2 million average American homes. The projects announced today will help the U.S. solar energy industry continue to grow, ensuring America can capitalize on its vast renewable energy sources, cut carbon pollution, and continue to lead in the world in clean energy innovation.”
Due in part to the DOE’s long-term investments and partnerships with private industry, academia, and DOE National Laboratories, solar PV panels now cost 50% of what they did three years ago. To accelerate the development of next-generation PV technologies that will further drive down costs, the DOE is awarding more than $14 million to 10 research institutions to improve the performance, efficiency, and durability of solar PV devices. The R&D projects will explore a variety of leading-edge solutions, from new high-performance materials to novel techniques for creating more efficient solar cells that cost less to manufacture.
By nearly all measures, the solar energy industry has been one of the fastest-growing sectors in the U.S. over the last five years, with cumulative installed solar power increasing more than tenfold since 2008. Significant decreases in both the hardware costs and non-hardware “soft” costs of a solar energy system, such as permitting, interconnection, and financing, supported this increase in deployment, and further cost reductions will create an environment for even more solar deployment.
Through its SunShot Incubator program, the DOE is investing more than $14 million in 20 small businesses that will develop innovative technologies and services to further drive down hardware and non-hardware costs for solar electric systems. The projects take a number of approaches to decreasing costs, creating a software-based solution to quantify risk for solar investors, developing advanced materials and components that maximize efficiency for concentrating solar power (CSP) and identifying ways to eliminate the need for expensive silver in solar cell manufacturing.
As a part of the administration’s effort to support advanced manufacturing in the U.S., the DOE is committed to fostering innovation in solar energy manufacturing in order to further drive down the cost of solar technology and increase domestic manufacturing. In support of the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, the DOE is awarding more than $24 million to 10 U.S.-based solar manufacturers working to develop and implement innovative technologies that will reduce costs and increase efficiency in manufacturing processes used to make PV and CSP technologies. These investments focus on tackling key cost-contributors such as raw materials, labor-intensive processes, and capital expenses.
Broadly, these investments support state-of-the-art products, solutions, and technology advancements that will increase solar energy system performance and efficiency and drive down costs. The DOE’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.