The US Department of Energy (DOE) will target to cut cost of solar energy by 60% over the next 10 years. In addition, it has committed close to $128 Million to fund efforts to lower costs, improve performance and accelerate the deployment of solar energy technologies.
This translates into achieving a $0.02 per kWh cost target for utility scale solar by 2030, while reaching an interim of $0.03 per kWh by 2025, down from $0.046 per kWh at present. This would accelerate the 2030 cost target by 5 years. Previously DOE reached the 2020 target of $0.06 per kWh in 2017 (see SunShot Initiative Achieves 6 ct/kWh Goal).
The refreshed focus on low carbon energy technology, solar PV is part of US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ climate goals. Lowering the cost of solar energy is essential to accelerating deployment and achieving President Biden’s goal of a 100% clean electricity grid by 2035, stated the department.
“To reach that goal in the next 15 years, hundreds of gigawatts of solar energy need to be installed as much as five times faster than it is now,” according to the DOE.
By 2035, solar PV power generation technology can represent between 30% and 50% of electricity supply in a decarbonized electricity sector.
As for nearly $128 million funding to be shelled out by the DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), the department said it will support advancement of perovskites and cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin films with $40 million and $20 million, respectively.
For perovskites, the $40 million will be awarded to 22 projects that will ‘advance perovskite PV device and manufacturing research and development’. At the same time, it will provide $14 million for the formation of testing center to provide neutral, independent validation of the performance of new perovskite devices.
Another $20 million will be used by the National Renewable Energy laboratory (NREL) to set up a consortium to advance cheaper CdTe thin-film solar technologies developed in the US that will advance low-cost manufacturing techniques and domestic research capabilities with an aim to capture a larger portion of the $60 billion global solar manufacturing sector.
The DOE has set aside $3 million for a Perovskite Startup Prize to speed up efforts of startups to commercialize perovskite technologies by providing seed capital.
It announced a $7 million new funding opportunity for projects that can increase the lifetime of silicon-based PV systems from about 30 years to 50 years to lower the cost of energy and reduce waste.
Concentrated solar-thermal power (CSP) projects have also caught its attention with $58 million reserved for the technology, with an eye to reach a cost target of $0.05 per kWh for CSP plants for 2030.
“In many parts of the country, solar is already cheaper than coal and other fossil fuels, and with more innovation we can cut the cost again by more than half within the decade,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “This first burst of funding will help us add even more affordable clean energy to the grid, jobs to communities across the country, and will put us on the fast track toward President Biden’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035.”