Solar energy has grown exponentially since President Obama took office. The amount of solar energy connected to our country’s power grid has increased about 20 times and solar jobs have grown 86 percent, all while supporting the President’s Climate Action Plan to help reduce climate-changing carbon emissions and meet the targets of the Clean Power Plan. Research funded by our SunShot Initiative aimed at improving technology and making it accessible to consumers has dramatically accelerated these achievements.
At the Solar Power International conference on September 16, Vice President Joe Biden made one of the largest solar research and development funding announcements to ever come out of our SunShot Initiative. His announcement included more than $102 million in new solar projects and funding now available to private industry, nonprofits, universities, and national laboratories to support American leadership in clean energy innovation.
Vice President Biden thanked the audience for their contributions to the nation, especially in the fight against climate change, while noting that more Americans than ever before are choosing solar energy to power their daily lives. “We want to give every American a choice, an energy choice on what they want to use, no matter who they are or where they live,” said Vice President Biden. “This isn’t a government mandate – it’s the market working.”
He also highlighted SunShot’s mission and latest projects, saying, “It’s a simple idea to reduce the cost of solar by another 75 percent by 2020, cut red tape and get next-generation technologies to the market faster, provide technical assistance to cities and households that want to go solar, and create tens of thousands of solar jobs.”
These new projects include improving solar hardware degradation rates over system lifetimes, leading to solar cost reductions and reduced risk in long-term PV performance. Concentrating solar power projects will address technical challenges, while a national designation and technical assistance program will help local governments grow their local solar markets. Five teams of finalists will compete in the SunShot Prize to reduce the amount of time it takes to “go solar” from several months to seven days.
Additionally, SunShot is making $50 million available in new funding opportunities: one new funding program aims to further improve PV module performance, reliability, and manufacturability, while also advancing next generation PV concepts; the other will support the development of new solar tools, technologies, and services that can swiftly enter the solar marketplace.
The SunShot Initiative’s funding announcements are part of a broader $120 million commitment supporting solar energy growth, also announced on September 16. It includes $5 million for 11 states for local clean-energy development through the Energy Department’s State Energy Program and nearly $8 million in awards through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promote clean energy technologies for people living in rural areas.