Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

Help Solve Solar’s Big Challenge

December 2, 2013

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Soft costs now account for more than 60% of the total price of installing residential solar energy systems. <a href="http://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/infographic-lets-get-work-solar-soft-costs">View the full infographic to learn more</a>.

Soft costs now account for more than 60% of the total price of installing residential solar energy systems. View the full infographic to learn more.

Soft costs now account for more than 60% of the total price of installing residential solar energy systems. <a href="http://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/infographic-lets-get-work-solar-soft-costs">View the full infographic to learn more</a>.

Soft costs now account for more than 60% of the total price of installing residential solar energy systems. View the full infographic to learn more.

Breaking Down Barriers

New research shows that the non-hardware “soft costs” of a solar energy system – such as permitting, customer acquisition, and operations – now account for up to 64% of the total price of installing residential solar energy systems in the United States. As the cost of solar panels and other hardware have dropped tremendously, soft costs are soaring. These costs also stand as the greatest barrier to deploying more residential solar energy systems throughout the country. That’s why the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative is working to lower soft costs in order to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by 2020.

How You Can Help

In the most recent round of the Solar Incubator program, SunShot announced $10 million to fund outside-of-the-box ideas to lessen solar’s hardware and soft costs. Some of the solutions to tackle this challenge will be driven by software innovations. SunShot is looking for big thinkers, zany creatives, data geeks, app developers, software engineers, and others to devise new approaches to attack soft costs.

Winning applicants could receive up to $500,000 in funding to bring their innovative product or service to the marketplace. Just draft a concept paper that includes a description of your project, summary of qualifications, a short business plan, and other required items and the payoff could be solar’s next  big technology breakthrough.

Since 2007, the SunShot Incubator program has supported 71 projects, with Incubator protégés in the private sector attracting more than $1.8 billion in venture capital and private equity investment. That’s a $16  return for every $1 invested. Your company or idea could be next!

Check out some of the work Incubator’s rock star alumni are doing to cut soft costs:

  • EnergySage, a two time Incubator awardee, developed, and is improving, a web-based platform that allows users to compare prices of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems from qualified installers in their area.  EnergySage facilitates open market interactions between property owners and solar PV installers. The product also enables installers to pass cost savings directly to consumers.
  • As part of the last round of Incubator funding, kWh Analytics is now building big data information tools to help investors understand risk in the new solar asset class, while Folsom Labs is working on cloud-based modeling of arrays to help evaluate how new technologies impact PV systems.

Do you have what it takes to solve solar’s big challenge? Apply for the latest round of Incubator funding now and learn more about soft costs. Contact SunShot for additional information or questions about the Incubator program.