The Department of Energy wants to make solar power more accessible and affordable for homeowners and businesses across the United States.
To that end, the agency recently announced $39 million in funding for photovoltaic projects this year. Because the DoE is a federal agency, this means tax dollars will help fund this investment.
To speed up the development and adoption of new technologies, the DOE is investing $18 million in six photovoltaic power storage projects. Energy storage has been a thorn in the side of solar growth, and technological breakthroughs are needed to bring down the costs and make it easier to store photovoltaic power for use when the sun isn’t shining.
The six power storage projects will aim to show that photovoltaic energy can be stored for use at any time, to effectively meet consumer electricity needs. Austin Energy in Texas, Chicago’s Commonwealth Edison Company and the Fraunhofer USA Center for Sustainable Energy Systems in Boston received the largest shares of funding. Tennessee’s Electric Power Research Institute, the Hawaiian Electric Company and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh are also leading DOE-sponsored projects.
Photovoltaic module costs have dramatically declined over the past decade. But soft costs, or the non-hardware expenses involved in using solar power, have increased. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), soft costs rose by an industry average of 7 percent in 2015.
These expenses account for a significant percentage of overall photovoltaic system costs — anywhere from 50 to 65 percent, depending upon the sector.
To address this and develop new strategies to lower these costs, the DOE is investing $13 million in state-level funding. The goal is to provide states with the support they need to develop partnerships with the utilities. This allows these groups to work together on solutions for solar energy soft costs in their markets.
The DOE has allocated $8 million in a second round of the Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies (SEEDS) program.
This program will examine how soft costs, solar technologies, the electric grid system and the business marketplace can be barriers to the widespread adoption of photovoltaic power. This round of SEEDS funding also will work to advance solar proliferation by developing strategies to optimize solar deployment.
The specific projects for the 2016 SEEDS program will be announced in June.
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