Will SunShot Be Shot in the Arm for Solar Industry?: DOE Grid Parity Initiative
Everybody likes solar, but nobody likes the price, especially without the incentives. And the incentives are like sand castles with the tide rising, here one day, gone the next. The fits and starts in the incentives from the government has wreaked havoc on the market. The Department of Energy announced a new initiative to lower the cost of solar so that solar can be competitive with fossil fuel and other non-clean energy-without the incentives.
Yes, everybody loves solar. According to a new study reported in Solar Industry Magazine, almost 80% of consumers have a positive view of solar: "In a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults, the cleantech market intelligence firm found that 79% of consumers have a favorable view of solar energy and 75% have a favorable view of wind energy." So why don't we see solar gaining more traction in the United States, and why are we way behind Germany in installed solar capacity. It is all in the price, and because the price of solar panels on your home still can take your breath away, the Department of Energy has a solution: forget about the incentives, let's bring the cost of solar energy down so that it is competitive with traditional sources of the country's power.
The Department of Energy last month released its SunShot Initiative to jumpstart the solar energy. The goal of the program is clear: "to make large-scale solar energy systems cost competitive without subsidies by the end of the decade." The program focuses on the installed system as a whole, and will target not only cell technologies and manufacturing, but also installation and permitting costs. Comparing the "SunShot initiative" to the moon landings program of the 1960s that President Kennedy called the "moon shot", the current US Energy Secretary (and photonics pioneer) Steven Chu said that the target was to reduce the cost of utility-scale PV to about $1/W, equivalent to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour. The initiative is also a key part of President Obama's goal of producing 80% of US electricity from clean energy sources by 2035."
The initial reaction has been very positive. This article from optics.org describes the initiative in more detail: "The US Department of Energy (DOE) has launched a program aiming to deliver grid-parity solar photovoltaics by 2020, a goal that will demand roughly a 75% reduction in the cost of systems compared with today. The initiative also offers the chance to breathe new life into the 10 Million Solar Roof Law, which Senator Sanders of Vermont introduced last year, according to this report on Reuters. ABC News out of Australia gives kudos to the Obama Administration for losing the battle but winning the war for solar energy. "The Labor Government should take a minute out from its carbon tax fight to learn how President Obama is losing the ‘negative' debate about saving the climate, but he is winning the ‘positive' debate about energy independence, security and cost."