The Dollar Watt – The Solar Energy Tipping Point?
A Dollar Watt – that is, a total cost of $1 per watt of installed solar capacity – could be the tipping point for widespread use of solar power, making it cost competitive with fossil fuels and (perhaps) cheaper in the long-term. Today, solar costs about four times this, at about $4 per Watt installed. But, the Department of Energy is trying to reduce this number through its “SunShot” initiative, which is focused on achieving a commercialized Dollar Watt by 2020.
Over the past decade, the Department of Energy has invested more than $1 billion in solar energy research and development. Combined with R&D investments at universities, labs and in the private sector, the cost of solar is now 60% lower than it was in 1995. But, to achieve the 75% reduction by 2020 that the DOE hopes for, additional funding (to the tune of $34 million) will be made available in key sections of the solar puzzle.
The SunShot initiative will focus on improving technology, optimizing performance, raising the efficiency of solar manufacturing, installation, and permitting processes. To spur innovation and action in these areas, the Department of Energy will award $27 million to nine new solar projects. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will contribute an additional $7 million to help commercialize promising solar technologies.
This funding will support nine new projects that focus on how the U.S. solar manufacturing supply chain can be strengthened and how to best commercialize several cutting-edge solar technologies. In the process, DOE hopes to make solar electricity more readily available, at higher efficiencies and with reduced costs compared to currently available solar options.As Secretary Chu said on Friday:
America is in a world race to produce cost-effective, quality photovoltaics. The SunShot initiative will spur American innovations to reduce the costs of solar energy and re-establish U.S. global leadership in this growing industry. These efforts will boost our economic competitiveness, rebuild our manufacturing industry and help reach the President’s goal of doubling our clean energy in the next 25 years.