SunShot Takes Aim At Wide Range Of Solar Targets

With the latest awards through SunShot, the federal program that aims to cut the cost of solar power, the Obama administration is taking a bit of a shotgun approach, firing away at a broad spectrum of challenges.

The Department of Energy said $60 million in SunShot Initiative funding would be split among its incubator program for startup companies; four projects intended to drive the efficiency of single-junction solar cells higher; eight projects aimed at improving grid integration; and, finally, efforts to educate and train workers in the solar sector, including more minorities.

sunshot funding

Arizona State is leading an effort to produce ultra-thin silicon solar cells with targeted efficiencies of 29%. (image via Arizona State)

This latest funding announcement comes just a couple of months after researchers at UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group reported that if SunShot hits its goal of bringing the price of solar power down to the level of conventional power by the end of this decade – that would be a 75 percent drop from 2010 to 2020 – solar could provide more than a third of the North American West’s electricity by 2050. All this while hitting aggressive greenhouse-gas emissions goals and trimming annual electricity costs by $20 billion compared to the scenario now considered likely.

Here’s the breakdown of the new awards, as outlined by the DOE:

SunShot spending has been running around $300 million a year, by our calculation. No small sum, but as we’ve pointed out before, that amounts to 0.2 percent of what the U.S. has annually spent on its post-9/11 wars in the past ten years.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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