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.
Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steve Chu welcomed the 20 members of the new Energy Efficiency and Renewables Advisory Committee (ERAC) to DOE headquarters. The committee was formed in order to review and provide input on the direction of DOE’s clean energy portfolio. Members include academics, local government officials (including Philadelphia’s Mayor, Michael Nutter), venture capitalists, project developers, and energy utilities.
According to yesterday’s press release by DOE, the group will focus on long-term strategies for addressing the challenges facing “clean energy deployment and market acceptance”. Working groups and subcommittees within ERAC will meet frequently, with the full committee meeting at least twice per year in order to prepare and submit their recommendations to DOE. Advisory Committee meetings will be open to the public.
You may have turned off your TV, unplugged your cell phone from its charger, and clicked off the radio you were listening to as you left the house this morning – but chances are that they did not stop consuming electricity while you were away. According to the Department of Energy standby (or “vampire”) power is responsible for 5 to 10 percent of residential electric bills in the United States, costing consumers approximately $4 billion per year.
But, according to a Green Blog post in the New York Times, new developments in nanotechnology might revolutionize the very device that is responsible for this slow bleeding away of power – the transistor. I.B.M, in partnership with several European companies, is looking to redesign the transistors found in many of our consumer electronics.
If their plan is successful…
…we could have “cellphone batteries that last 10 times longer than today’s models, and computers and other devices that use virtually no power when in stand-by mode”.
This would be quite an accomplishment, both from a consumer standpoint (no more mid-day charging of cell phones) and from an energy efficiency point-of-view. Eliminating 5-10% of residential electricity consumption could translate into large economic savings, through not only smaller electric bills in the short-term, but also by reducing the need for new power plants in the long-term.
Today, the Department of Energy announced $120 million in funding to support innovative weatherization projects. Funding was announced for some 120 projects – ranging from pilot programs ($30 million) to existing program expansions ($90 million) – under DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program. The funding finds its roots in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
In today’s announcement, Secretary of Energy Steve Chu also revealed that the Weatherization Assistance Program has weatherized more than 31,600 homes across the country.
The weatherization program under the Recovery Act is successfully creating jobs in local communities, saving money for families, and reducing carbon pollution across the country,” said Secretary Chu. “The funding announced today builds on the Department’s existing investments in energy efficiency to continue to expand and drive innovations in the weatherization program that will provide even greater energy and cost savings to low-income families. ~Secretary Chu, 8/19/2010
The program has also reached an “optimal” running rate – weatherizing approximately 25,000 homes per month. This summer alone, more than 80,000 homes will be weatherized across the country. (See the state breakdown of the homes weatherized through June)