DOE Announces Plan To Further Cut Cost Of Solar

The U.S. Department of Energy has just announced a plan to cut the cost of solar power 60 percent by 2030.

The plan includes $128 million in funding to accelerate the adoption of solar, improve solar panel performance, and lower the overall costs of implementing solar. “This burst of funding will help us add even more affordable clean energy to the grid, jobs to communities across the country, and will put us on the fast track toward President Biden’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035” – Jennifer M. Granholm (Secretary of Energy).

This plan is a key element of the nation’s goal of achieving a 100 percent clean electricity grid by 2035. To help make this possible, the D.O.E. is looking to reduce the cost of utility scale solar electricity from 4.6 cents per kilowatt-hour to 2 cents per-kilowatt hour by 2030. This reduction in the price of solar power has significant implications. This will help enable between 30 and 50 percent of the country’s electricity needs to be met by solar power alone by 2035.

Here’s a breakdown of the primary ways in which the funding will be spent –

  • There will be $40 million spent on Perovskite R&D. Perovskites are a newer type of materials that show promise in making thin-film solar cells that have high efficiency ratings. The funding will be dispersed among 22 different projects.
  • Another $33 million will be allocated to increased reliability in Concentrated Solar Power technologies. This type of solar power is created by a large array of mirrors reflecting light at a receiver on a tower. The subsequent heat is utilized to drive a steam turbine to create electricity. A unique advantage and feature of CSP plants is that they can utilize molten salt to store power for use at a later time.
  • Further developments in CSP plants will be possible through an additional $25 million in funding. Researches will be able to use this money to develop the next generation of CSP plants.
  • $20 million will be used for increased developments in CdTe thin film technologies. CdTe is short for Cadmium telluride. This crystalline compound has already shown its ability to produce extremely cost effective solar cells. The funding will increase the the amount of CdTe solar panels produced in the U.S which already stands at about 20 percent of the market.
  • $7 million will be used to increase the longevity of solar panel systems. The goal is to make the new standard 50 years instead of the current expected useful life of 30 years.
  • Finally another $3 million will be allocated to a Perovskite Startup Prize. This will take the form of seed capital for companies looking to use this specific solar technology to create a business.

It should be noted that this news bulletin from the D.O.E. is largely pertaining to utility scale solar. Cost reductions in solar power have different trajectories based on the scale involved. In other words, residential solar may not see the same price reduction over the next 10 years. Sure, prices for solar components will continue to decrease, though by much lower amounts and there are different costs involve for home solar.

The bottom line is that while this is good news for our overall transition to a clean energy society, this will not have a dramatic effect on residential solar. The best time for homeowners to go solar is now. Expecting solar prices to come down significantly in the coming years is not that likely. Homeowners who start saving with solar power now will actually save more money over the long term than by waiting for further price reductions.

The DOE Announces $125 Million In New Solar Funding

The U.S. Department of Energy made an announcement today, the 5th of February, that it is investing $125.5 million in support of further improvements in solar power and other renewable energy technologies.

This investment will, more specifically, go towards improving the reliability of the nation’s grid, creating a more robust American manufacturing environment, and helping to further reduce the cost of solar.

“We’re excited about these new funding opportunities for renewable power, transportation, energy efficiency, and manufacturing. We look forward to working with the National Labs and private sector partners to advance clean, affordable, and reliable energy for American families and businesses.” – Daniel R. Simmons – Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The key objectives include:

  • Photovoltaics (PV) Hardware Research – $15 million for 8-12 projects that aim to extend PV system lifetimes and reduce hardware costs of solar systems made of silicon solar cells, as well as new technologies like thin-film, tandem, and perovskite solar cells.
  • Integrated Thermal Energy Storage and Brayton Cycle Equipment Demonstration (Integrated TESTBED) – $39 million for 1-2 projects that will develop a test site to accelerate the commercialization of supercritical carbon dioxide power cycles, a key component of low-cost concentrating solar power plants.
  • Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies 3 (SEEDS 3) – $10 million for 6-8 projects that will examine how information flows to stakeholders to enable more efficient decision-making about solar and other emerging technologies, such as energy storage.
  • Innovations in Manufacturing: Hardware Incubator – $14 million for 7-9 projects that will advance innovative product ideas from a prototype to a pre-commercial stage, with an aim for products that support a strong U.S. solar manufacturing sector and supply chain.
  • Systems Integration –  $30 million for 7-11 projects that will develop resilient community microgrids to maintain power during and restore power after man-made or natural disasters, improve cybersecurity for PV inverters and power systems, and develop advanced hybrid plants that operate collaboratively with other resources for improved reliability and resilience.
  • Solar and Agriculture: System Design, Value Frameworks, and Impacts Analysis – $6.5 million for 4-6 projects that will advance the technologies, research, and practices necessary for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural enterprises to co-locate solar and agriculture.
  • Artificial Intelligence Applications in Solar Energy with Emphasis on Machine Learning – $6 million for 8-12 projects that encourage partnerships between experts in AI and solar industry stakeholders to develop disruptive solutions across the value chain of the solar industry.
  • Small Innovative Projects in Solar (SIPS): PV and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) – $5 million for 15-20 projects that advance innovative and novel ideas in PV and CSP that can produce significant results within the first year of performance. 

While an initial response to this announcement should be positive, it’s also worth noting that the current administration has not exactly been the most supportive of the renewable energy industry. In fact, they are big supporters of trying to bring back coal (which won’t happen) and being generally favorable to the fossil fuel industry. It can also be said that $125 million is a very small amount considering the total yearly available budget.

The big picture is that the solar industry is ripe for massive expansion as it is right now. Prices are low and the technology is ready to go. Sure, further improvements will only encourage expansion of renewable energy projects, but what is really needed is promotion. Many simply are still not aware of how much it makes sense to go solar right now.

Here’s to further support for the solar industry, and more importantly, the implementation of solar projects right now!

Report Shows Strong Solar Growth Trend

In a recent Department of Energy report, new wind and solar power capacity additions dwarf most fossil fuels types.

This post is basically part two of the most recent one detailing future solar power growth predictions in the U.S. The basic idea here is that solar has been, and is completely expected to, stay on a growth trend that massively outpaces all fossil fuels.

Case in point is this recent report released by the Department of Energy that shows wind and solar power growing at a pace much faster than fossil fuels. In fact, it shows that wind and solar accounted for more than 500 gigawatts of new energy capacity for 2018. Of course, the natural gas boom is still prevalent, but due to the inherently non-renewable nature of that source of power, it can be expected that it will eventually follow a downward trajectory.

U.S. Department of Energy

Another interesting thing definitely worth mentioning about this graph is the quite noticeable portion of energy storage. An increasing amount of energy storage is being incorporated in renewable energy projects. Battery storage is an undeniably important part of current and future wind and solar installations.

This post is, yet again, inspired by a recent one by PV Magazine USA. According to their research, projected solar growth shows a possible 222 gigawatts of solar and 64 gigawatts of energy storage through to 2023. Of course, it is quite possible that not every single gigawatt of these figures will be installed and it is also quite possible that the numbers will be even larger.

The primary point of this follow up post to the last was to add a few more numbers to the story. There’s plenty of statistical evidence to prove the solar industry’s ascension as a part of the total energy mix in the coming years. It may be easy to doubt any one person’s predictions, but hard data from reputable sources like the Department of Energy are difficult to refute.

The big picture here is that solar power will become a major source of energy much sooner than later!