Can DOE’s Sunshot Challenge Fast-Track Grid-Parity Solar?

In about a week, some of the brightest minds in government, industry, and academia will gather in Denver, Colorado to talk about what the U.S. can do to play catch-up in the global clean energy race. The SunShot Grand Challenge: Summit and Technology Forum is the first event in a series of Department of Energy Grand Challenges that organizers hope will  address the scientific, technological, and market barriers to achieving breakthroughs in the clean energy market.

For the past five years, the fossil fuel industry has done its best to impede both public and private investment in renewable research and development. While politicians wring their hands about what might happen if fossil fuel subsidies were instead distributed to solar and wind, countries like Spain, Germany, and Japan have been jumped in with both feet. As a result, these countries are far closer to achieving grid-parity than we are.

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Image via Shutterstock

But the U.S. isn’t out of the race just yet. Although we may have political gridlock, we also have incredible potential for innovation in the face of adversity. At this month’s SunShot Grand Challenge, the DOE hopes that collecting enough talent together in the same room will catalyze some much needed solutions.

EarthTechling recently caught up with Minh Le, Chief Engineer for the Energy Department’s Solar Program, to learn more about what the SunShot Challenge is and how it hopes to boost solar’s efficiency while simultaneously reducing cost.

ET:  What is the single biggest factor holding back America’s shift to renewable energy?

Minh Le: The single biggest barrier that prevents solar from meeting a greater percentage of our electricity needs is cost. That’s why all of the DOE solar program efforts focus on making solar cost-competitive with traditional forms of electricity by the end of the decade. By supporting the work of more than 250 researchers, universities, businesses, and local governments, the SunShot Initiative has made significant progress toward this goal since it was launched two years ago.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog