The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced yesterday that it intends to “cut the cost of solar energy by 60% within the next 10 years, in addition to nearly $128 million in funding to lower costs, improve performance, and speed the deployment of solar energy technologies.”
The new goal moves forward its previous utility-scale solar cost target by five years. This DOE announcement is part of the Biden administration’s plan to decarbonize the US power sector by 2035.
The DOE writes:
To reach that goal in the next 15 years, hundreds of gigawatts of solar energy need to be installed as much as five times faster than it is now. To that end, DOE is accelerating its utility-scale solar 2030 cost target by five years – setting a new goal of driving down the current cost of 4.6 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to 3 cents/kWh by 2025 and 2 cents/kWh by 2030.
Funding announced through DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO – and right on its front page are funding opportunities, resources, and research areas) will support advancing materials used to make solar cells [via the DOE website]:
$40 million for perovskite R&D: Perovskites are a family of emerging solar materials that have potential to make highly efficient thin-film solar cells with very low production costs. The DOE is awarding $40 million to 22 projects that will advance perovskite PV device and manufacturing research and development — as well as performance through the formation of a new $14 million testing center to provide neutral, independent validation of the performance of new perovskite devices.
$3 million Perovskite Startup Prize: This new prize competition will speed entrepreneurs’ paths to commercializing perovskite technologies by providing seed capital for their newly formed companies.
$20 million for CdTe thin films: The National Renewable Energy Laboratory will set up a consortium to advance cheaper CdTe thin-film solar technologies, which were developed in the US and make up 20% of the modules installed in this country. This consortium will advance low-cost manufacturing techniques and domestic research capabilities to increase opportunities for US workers and entrepreneurs to capture a larger portion of the $60 billion global solar manufacturing sector.
The DOE also announced $7 million as part of a new funding opportunity for projects to increase the lifetime of silicon-based PV systems from about 30 years to 50 years to lower the cost of energy and reduce waste. The aim is to improve PV system components, such as inverters, connectors, cables, racks, and trackers.
Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm stated:
In many parts of the country, solar is already cheaper than coal and other fossil fuels, and with more innovation we can cut the cost again by more than half within the decade.
This first 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.
This is really exciting. It reminds me of James Montgomery Flagg’s “I want you for the US Army” Uncle Sam poster from both world wars. It’s a call to arms, but for solar innovation. And the DOE is using creative ways to encourage Americans to rise to the occasion.
If you click on the “$40 million to 22 projects” link above, you get to see all the exciting projects that are underway at universities and other organizations. And the startup prize resembles clean energy and EV projects in the private sector, such as at Elemental Excelerator, where Electrek recently spoke with Danielle J. Harris, director of mobility innovation (who are taking applications for cohort 10 right now).
Necessity is the mother of invention, right? It’s a great time to be a clean energy entrepreneur or researcher. I can’t wait to see what comes out of this call for green energy greatness.
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