Quantcast

Solar Cost Reduction Goal Way Ahead of Schedule

Business

Less than three years in, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) solar cost reduction initiative has risen far above expectations.

The DOE announced the SunShot Initiative in February 2011 with the goal of encouraging a price drop for utility scale installations by 75 percent by 2020. So far, the federal department has achieved about 60 percent.

The Stirling Energy Systems dish in Albuquerque, NM generates electricity by focusing the sun's rays onto a receiver, which transmits the heat energy to a Stirling engine. The Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative aims to cut the cost of utility scale solar installations to make way for the broad deployment of similar projects. Photo credit: Sandia National Laboratories/Randy Montoya

"We are three years into a ten year mission, so we are 30 percent of the way through the time and 60 percent of the way there and going twice as fast as we need to," Minh Le, SunShot director, told London-based PV-Tech. "I would attach a caveat to that because the first half is always the easiest, that's the low hanging fruit. The second half will be really hard."

The DOE set out to cut utility scale installations to $1 a watt or about 6 cents per kilowatt-hour in order to broadly deploy solar energy systems around the nation. The department has been working with governmental, private and academic partners on sunlight-to-energy conversion solar cell technologies, solar manufacturing efficiency and more to make its dream a reality.

"The costs have come down dramatically," Le said. "Utility scale solar is less than $2 per watt. When we started in 2011, our 2010 benchmark was $3.80 per watt, so it has come down by half. The price of utility scale solar has halved compared to what it was two years ago.

"Our goal is $1 per watt, so we really only have one more dollar to go but it will be the hardest dollar to get."

Le pointed to hardware and software costs to help in saving that dollar.

"We still need innovation in hardware, not just the modules where there are still clearly exciting opportunities in improving the efficiency of cells," he said. "There are other opportunities elsewhere and many of these can be exported. Our incubator is funding one company called Brittmore that is automating the installation of panels in the field, QBotix is using robots to do two-axis tracking. This is already being exported elsewhere in the world."

The SunShot Initiative awarded a total of $60 million to various companies, businesses and universities for solar research and manufacturing. Awardees ranged from the University of California, San Diego to the Electric Power Research Institute in Knoxville, TN, which is an example of a regional training consortium to support the 119,000-employee solar industry.

“The tremendous growth in the U.S. solar industry over the past few years is helping to pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future that protects our air and water and provides affordable clean energy to more and more Americans,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said at the time.

Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Aerial assessment of Hurricane Sandy damage in Connecticut. Dannel Malloy / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Extreme weather events supercharged by climate change in 2012 led to nearly 1,000 more deaths, more than 20,000 additional hospitalizations, and cost the U.S. healthcare system $10 billion, a new report finds.

Read More Show Less
Giant sequoia trees at Sequoia National Park, California. lucky-photographer / iStock / Getty Images Plus

A Bay Area conservation group struck a deal to buy and to protect the world's largest remaining privately owned sequoia forest for $15.6 million. Now it needs to raise the money, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
This aerial view shows the Ogasayama Sports Park Ecopa Stadium, one of the venues for 2019 Rugby World Cup. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP / Getty Images

The Rugby World Cup starts Friday in Japan where Pacific Island teams from Samoa, Fiji and Tonga will face off against teams from industrialized nations. However, a new report from a UK-based NGO says that when the teams gather for the opening ceremony on Friday night and listen to the theme song "World In Union," the hypocrisy of climate injustice will take center stage.

Read More Show Less
Vera_Petrunina / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Wudan Yan

In June, New York Times journalist Andy Newman wrote an article titled, "If seeing the world helps ruin it, should we stay home?" In it, he raised the question of whether or not travel by plane, boat, or car—all of which contribute to climate change, rising sea levels, and melting glaciers—might pose a moral challenge to the responsibility that each of us has to not exacerbate the already catastrophic consequences of climate change. The premise of Newman's piece rests on his assertion that traveling "somewhere far away… is the biggest single action a private citizen can take to worsen climate change."

Read More Show Less
Volunteer caucasian woman giving grain to starving African children. Bartosz Hadyniak / E+ / Getty Images

By Frances Moore Lappé

Food will be scarce, expensive and less nutritious," CNN warns us in its coverage of the UN's new "Climate Change and Land" report. The New York Times announces that "Climate Change Threatens the World's Food Supply."

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
British Airways 757. Jon Osborne / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Adam Vaughan

Two-thirds of people in the UK think the amount people fly should be reined in to tackle climate change, polling has found.

Read More Show Less
Climate Week NYC

On Monday, Sept. 23, the Climate Group will kick off its 11th annual Climate Week NYC, a chance for governments, non-profits, businesses, communities and individuals to share possible solutions to the climate crisis while world leaders gather in the city for the UN Climate Action Summit.

Read More Show Less

By Pam Radtke Russell in New Orleans

Local TV weather forecasters have become foot soldiers in the war against climate misinformation. Over the past decade, a growing number of meteorologists and weathercasters have begun addressing the climate crisis either as part of their weather forecasts, or in separate, independent news reports to help their viewers understand what is happening and why it is important.

Read More Show Less