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12/10/2012 02:05 PM     print story email story  

New SunShot Investments to Greatly Improve Solar Economics

SustainableBusiness.com News

In another SunShot investment announced today, the Department of Energy (DOE) is investing $29 million in some very innovative projects that could make a big difference for mass adoption of solar. 

$21 million (over five years) is being deployed to design plug-and-play solar PV residential systems that can be purchased, installed, and operational in one day.

Making it easy to buy, install and connect solar is part of DOE's effort to bring down solar's "soft" costs, which now account for the biggest costs of residential systems.

The money is split between the Fraunhofer USA Center for Sustainable Energy Systems and North Carolina State University (NCSU).

Fraunhofter in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is working on processes that help homeowners size residential solar systems and connect them to the grid.

NCSU in Raleigh, North Carolina, is creating standard PV components and system designs that can be adapted to residential roof easily. 

Reliable Solar Forecasting

The DOE is putting another $8 million toward two projects that help utilities and grid operators better forecast when, where, and how much solar power will be produced at US solar energy plants.

Researchers at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, are examining the impact of clouds on solar generation and developing prediction techniques based on those models.

At IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Armonk, New York, researchers are working on creating prediction models that get smarter over time as more information is gathered.

Both organizations are working with the DOE and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) to improve solar forecast accuracy. This research is vital for helping utilities and grid operators drive down the costs of integrating more solar generation sources onto the grid. 

"The price of solar panels has fallen dramatically in recent years, but we also need to reduce the cost and time required to actually install them in homes and businesses, and help utility companies better integrate renewable energy into the grid," says Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

SunShot's goal is to make solar competitive with other forms of energy without subsidies by the end of the decade.

Last month, the program awarded $10 million to 10 solar startups as part of its incubator program – bringing its cumulative investment in the effort to $92 million so far.

In September, it launched a three-year-long, $10 million competition to reduce solar installation costs.

Here's the SunShot website:

Website: www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/sunshot/index.html



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