SunShot reports: Solar energy progress and challenges

By Jodi Delapaz

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 26, 2016 - Since the Energy Department (DOE) launched the SunShot Initiative in 2011 with a goal of making solar electricity cost-competitive with traditional sources of electricity by 2020, solar deployment has grown more than 10-fold in the U.S., DOE says. There are now more than 1 million solar installations currently operating across the country. The cost of solar energy has also dropped as much as 65 percent, DOE notes, and as a result the industry is approximately 70 percent of the way toward meeting the SunShot 2020 goals.

However, the department says that as solar has become more affordable, helping the industry grow by an astonishing 23-fold since the beginning of the Obama administration, new challenges and opportunities have emerged.

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To highlight these issues, DOE recently published a series of research papers, On the Path to SunShot, that examine the current state of the U.S. solar energy industry and the progress made. The reports explore the “lessons learned” in the first five years of the 10-year initiative and identify key research, development and market opportunities that can help ensure that solar energy technologies are widely available and affordable.  

Among topics that the reports address are: emerging issues and challenges in areas such as the integration of high levels of solar in the grid; solar manufacturing and financing; utility regulation; and the role of advancements in photovoltaic (PV) efficiency, reliability and costs.

“Solar energy is an integral part of our nation's ongoing energy revolution,” says Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. “The U.S. has over 10 times more solar installed today compared to 2011 when the SunShot Initiative was first launched, and the overall costs of solar have dropped by 65 percent.”

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The reports also serve as a starting point for the next phase of the SunShot Initiative, DOE says, as it looks forward to a future with even lower cost and more widespread solar energy.

The On the Path to SunShot reports show that the technologies and strategies used to facilitate the solar evolution will affect system-wide costs and improve the value of solar energy, says DOE, forecasting a total installed cost of solar energy systems reaching 6 cents per kilowatt-hour. Some key findings:

  • Grid flexibility options and smart inverters, among other technologies, could enable solar penetration levels at 25 percent and beyond.
  • Continued advances in science and technology will play a critical role in meeting cost reduction targets and offer potential pathways to further reduce costs.
  • Further lowering solar costs will enable the development of solar energy systems with higher value at higher levels of penetration.

To download the executive summary, click here.

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