Renewable Energy, Solar

DOE announces $60 million to boost solar power

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced about $60 million to support innovative solar energy research and development. As part of the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, these awards will help lower the cost of solar electricity, advance power grid integration and support the U.S. solar power workforce.

Over the last three years, the cost of a solar energy system has dropped by more than 70 percent — helping to give more and more American families and businesses access to affordable, clean energy. The DOE announced a series of awards to further reduce costs — including soft costs like permitting, installation and interconnection– and to improve hardware performance and efficiency.

Since 2007, more than 50 American start-ups have participated in the SunShot Incubator Program — attracting more than $1.7 billion in private sector backing, or nearly $18 for every $1 of government support. As part of today’s announcement, the DOE is investing more than $12 million across 17 companies to help commercialize a wide range of technologies and services — from online tools that can map a rooftop’s solar potential in seconds to automated installation systems for utility scale photovoltaic plants.

The DOE is awarding about $16 million to four projects that will help develop solar devices that near the theoretical efficiency limits of single junction solar cells, or about 30 percent efficiency. The DOE is also awarding about $7 million to develop stronger, more reliable solar components as well as dependable performance tests for microinverters and microconverters. They provide easier installation and more effective capture of energy for both photovoltaic and concentrating solar power systems.

The DOE is investing about $8 million to help utilities forecast and integrate high levels of renewable energy generation into the grid, while ensuring reliable and affordable power. For example, AWS Truepower will help California utilities feed cost-competitive distributed solar directly into the power grid, while the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) will help 150 U.S. counties deploy new solar capacity and model streamlined financing and installation processes for electric cooperatives nationwide.

The U.S. solar industry employs about 119,000 workers at more than 5,600 companies across every state. Since 2010, the solar industry has created nearly 20,000 new American jobs. To support this growing workforce and a new generation of clean energy leaders, the Energy Department is providing training for engineers and utility workers as well as student research opportunities.

The DOE is awarding about $15 million to develop power engineering curriculum and launch four regional training consortiums. Led by U.S. universities, utilities, and industry, these consortiums will train the next generation of energy engineers, system operators and utility professionals.

The DOE is also awarding about $1 million to Delaware State University and the University of Texas at San Antonio to provide solar energy research and education opportunities to minority students.