The U.S. Department of Energy announced an initiative that aims to reduce the total costs of photovoltaic solar energy systems by about 75% over the next decade.
If successful, the so-called SunShot Initiative would help make large scale solar cost-competitive with other forms of energy—without subsidies—by 2020.
The cost-competitive mark for utility-scale installations is considered to be roughly $1 a watt, which corresponds to roughly 6 cents per kilowatt-hour.
The SunShot program builds on the legacy of President Kennedy's 1960s "moon shot" goal, which laid out a plan to regain the country's lead in the space race and land a man on the moon. The program aims to aggressively drive innovations in the ways that solar systems are conceived, designed, manufactured and installed.
"America is in a world race to produce cost-effective, quality photovoltaics. The SunShot Initiative will spur American innovations to reduce the costs of solar energy and re-establish U.S. global leadership in this growing industry," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
In addition to investing in improvements in cell technologies and manufacturing, the SunShot Initiative will also focus on streamlining and digitizing local permitting processes that will reduce installation and permitting costs.
DOE says it will work closely with partners in government, industry, research laboratories and academic institutions across the country. SunShot will work to bring down the full cost of solar—including the costs of the solar cells and installation—by focusing on four main pillars:
- Technologies for solar cells and arrays that convert sunlight to energy
- Electronics that optimize the performance of the installation
- Improvements in the efficiency of solar manufacturing processes
- Installation, design and permitting for solar energy systems.