This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

February 09, 2011

DOE's SunShot Seeks Cost-Competitive Solar Energy by 2020

Photo of a sleek racing car parked at a race track.

First Solar's 10-megawatt facility in Boulder City, Nevada, is an example of PV possibility.
Credit: First Solar

DOE announced additional details on February 4 of its new "SunShot Initiative." SunShot aims to reduce the total costs of photovoltaic (PV) solar energy systems by about 75% before the end of the decade so that PV systems are cost competitive with other forms of energy without subsidies. With the cost of utility-scale installations reduced to $1 a watt (or roughly 6 cents per kilowatt-hour), PV systems could be broadly deployed across the United States. The SunShot program evokes the legacy of President Kennedy's 1960s "moon shot" goal, which laid out a plan to regain the country's lead in the space race and land a man on the moon.

SunShot will work to bring down the full cost of solar, including the costs of the solar cells and installation, by focusing on four areas: technologies for solar cells and arrays that convert sunlight to energy; electronics that optimize the performance of the installation; improvements in the efficiency of solar manufacturing processes; and improvements in installation, design, and permitting for solar energy systems.

The initiative builds on DOE's research and development (R&D) efforts in solar energy over the past decade, conducted in partnership with U.S. universities, national laboratories, and the private sector. In the last ten years, DOE has invested more than $1 billion in solar energy research that has been leveraged with significant private industry funding to support more than $2 billion in total solar R&D projects. This includes investments by DOE's Office of Science, Solar Energy Technologies Program, and ARPA-E, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. Innovations in both science and technology have driven the cost of solar down 60% since 1995, and have yielded a number of critical breakthroughs in solar PV performance and cost. See the DOE press release, the SunShot Initiative Web page, and the fact sheetPDF on DOE investments in solar energy.