DOE takes aim at solar costs

The US Energy Department will make available $25m in new funding to support innovative projects that accelerate the commercialization of efficient, affordable PV and concentrated solar power technologies.

This, in turn, will further lower the cost of solar electricity, support a growing US solar workforce and increase the country’s competitiveness in the global clean energy market.

DOE says the funding opportunity is part of its SunShot Initiative, which aims to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional sources of energy by 2020.

Specifically, the funding will tackle key cost-contributors across the hardware supply chain and make improvements in a broad range of manufacturing processes that save time and money.

Eligible projects may include developing advanced technology that lowers domestic solar manufacturing costs, and developing and demonstrating components, or new manufacturing processes that cut project construction and installation time, according to DOE.

Separately, DOE estimates that the US solar PV industry is more than 60% of the way to achieving cost-competitive utility-scale solar PV electricity – only three years into the Department’s decade-long SunShot Initiative.

SunShot’t target is $0.06 per kWh compared with an $0.11 per kWh average price for a utility-scale PV project at the end of 2013 and $0.21 per kWh in 2010..  

According to DOE’s Energy Information Administration, the average US electricity price is about $0.12 per kWh.

The US set a national industry record in 2013 when it installed 2.3GW of utility-scale solar.

Reductions in the cost of electricity are based on estimates of the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE). The LCOE is a measure of the national average of electricity cost based on certain assumptions regarding financing costs and generation availability projected over the life of a generating asset. The LCOE model provides a benchmark for measuring relative changes in electricity costs.

During President Barack Obama’s first term, the US more than doubled generation of electricity from wind, solar and geothermal sources. Installed solar capacity has grown ten-fold from 1.2GW in 2008 to an estimated 13GW today. He has set a goal to double renewable electricity generation again by 2020.