WASHINGTON, September 20, 2017 - The Energy Department (DOE) says it has achieved the 2020 utility-scale solar cost target – 6 cents per kilowatt-hour – set by its SunShot Initiative, a national effort to drive down the cost of solar electricity. The announcement was made in conjunction with the recent Solar Power International conference in Las Vegas.
The department says it is now moving on to SunShot’s expanded 2030 vision for its Solar Energy Technologies Office. New funding programs will focus on a broader scope of administration priorities, which include early-stage research to address solar energy’s critical challenges of grid reliability, resilience, and storage.
“With the impressive decline in solar prices, it is time to address additional emerging challenges,” said Daniel Simmons, the department’s acting assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). “As we look to the future, DOE will focus new solar R&D on (Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s) priorities, which include strengthening the reliability and resilience of the electric grid while integrating solar energy.”
Largely due to rapid cost declines in solar photovoltaic (PV) hardware, the average price of utility-scale solar is now 6 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), calls the achievement “a testament to the strength and cost-competitiveness of solar power here in America.”
“The SunShot Initiative has made significant contributions to lowering the cost of solar power nationwide and advancing critical, innovative research and we appreciate the Trump administration’s recognition of this. We are strong supporters of the program and believe it should continue to receive robust support.”
To further the new priorities for DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, Simmons announced up to $82 million in early-stage research. Of that, up to $62 million will support advances in concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies to enable on-demand solar energy. An additional $20 million is dedicated to early-stage projects to advance power electronics technologies.
Awardees will be required to contribute 20 percent of the funds to their overall project budget, yielding total public and private spending of nearly $100 million. The funds provided are not grants, but cooperative agreements, which involve substantial federal oversight and consist of go/no-go technical milestones that ensure attentive stewardship of projects.
Solar energy currently supplies about 1.5 percent of U.S. electricity. With DOE’s help, the solar industry has drastically cut costs to enable technological innovation and market growth. In the last 10 years, the amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased from 1.1 gigawatts (GW) in 2007 to an estimated 47.1 GW in 2017 — enough to power the equivalent of 9.1 million average American homes.
According to a report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, low module prices have been the primary driver of cost reductions for solar energy. The more stubborn “soft” costs like labor, permitting, interconnection, customer acquisition, financing, and grid integration remain challenges.
Start your day with the Agri-Pulse Daily Harvest Email. Sign up for a four-week free trial by clicking here!