Could solar power make up 27 percent of the U.S. energy economy by 2050?
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) thinks so. The SunShot Initiative, launched in 2011 by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, aims to make solar energy cost-competitive before the decade closes. Bringing the price of solar down to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour by 2020 will allow solar to grow from about 2 percent of the nation’s electricity generation portfolio to 27 percent by the middle of the century.
How the SunShot Initiative works
Such a big undertaking requires work within all levels of the energy market. The SunShot Initiative works with all types of organizations:
- Private companies
- State and local governments
- Nonprofit organizations
- National laboratories
Making the cost of solar more competitive
The initiative is only halfway through its decade, yet is 70 percent on the way to its goal of bringing solar energy costs down to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour. At that rate, solar would be on par with the energy sources we currently use more, such as oil, gas, and coal. In fact, thanks largely to the SunShot initiative, solar power is already cost competitive with traditional energy sources in 14 states.
How does it do this? Through funding five different aspects of solar power:
- Photovoltaics (PV): Picture your traditional solar panel.
- Concentrating solar power (CSP): CSP increases efficiency through reflectors that make the sunlight even stronger. Then it turns that solar energy into thermal energy (heat), which in turn can be collected for generators or turbines. Success with this kind of storage has lead to the first solar plant that doesn’t require fossil fuel back up generators.
- Soft costs: Soft costs refers to the part of solar power that isn’t the solar power, but the people power: people in business, data analysis, training, and networking and assistance. This is where a lot of those solar industry jobs are created.
- Systems integration: Systems integration gets solar energy on the grid by working on the technical and regulatory side. It addresses potential complications with getting newer energies onto a grid designed for on-demand energies such as fossil fuels.
- Technology to market: This moves the technology through the prototype stage to the market by taking good ideas and new technology and helping them succeed as they scale up for public use.
The benefits of SunShot
- There are numerous health and environmental benefits to increased use of solar power.
- Renewable energies are an important path to climate justice.
- The solar industry creates jobs almost 12 times faster than the overall economy.
- Solar saves you money, especially when it is utility-scale.
- If you work in the industry, you can apply for funding opportunities through the SunShot Initiative.
Why we’re for it
By making solar energy more affordable, the renewable energy market becomes more profitable for new companies and nonprofits. In this way, the SunShot Initiative may help support and grow fledgling community energy programs across the country, like Community Choice Aggregation (CCA).
SunShot is just one way the DOE is providing money to people and businesses looking to green our grid.
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