The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced an ambitious new target to cut the cost of solar energy by 60% within the next 10 years, in addition to nearly US$128 million in funding to lower costs, improve performance, and speed the deployment of solar energy technologies. These investments support the Biden-Harris Administration’s climate goals and will pave the way for affordable decarbonization of the energy system and a robust clean energy economy.
“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.”
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. To reach that goal in the next 15 years, the country will need to add hundreds of gigawatts of solar energy to the grid at a pace as much as five times faster than current installation rates. To that end, DOE is accelerating its utility-scale solar 2030 cost target by five years - setting a new goal of driving down the current cost of 4.6 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to 3 cents/kWh by 2025 and 2 cents/kWh by 2030.
"To meet our bold zero emissions goals by 2035, we need to unleash major investment in solar energy and technologies,” said U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey. “I am excited to see the Biden-Harris Administration and the Department of Energy grant the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) this research and development funding today to help the Commonwealth scale up our clean energy deployment and innovation. This funding will be a bright spot for the Massachusetts clean energy economy and will help us lower costs, create jobs, and deploy more gigawatts of solar than ever before."
Traditional solar panels convert sunlight into electrical energy using photovoltaic (PV) solar technologies, which by 2035 could represent between 30% and 50% of electricity supply in a decarbonized electricity sector. Funding announced through DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) will support advancing two materials used to make solar cells: perovskites and cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin films.
US$40 million has been awarded for perovskite R&D. Perovskites are a family of emerging solar materials that have potential to make highly efficient thin-film solar cells with very low production costs. DOE is awarding US$40 million to 22 projects that will advance perovskite PV device and manufacturing research and development - as well as performance through the formation of a new US$14 million testing center to provide neutral, independent validation of the performance of new perovskite devices.
There’s also a US$3 million Perovskite Startup Prize. This new prize competition will speed entrepreneurs’ path to commercializing perovskite technologies by providing seed capital for their newly formed companies.
US$20 million has been awarded for CdTe thin films. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory will set up a consortium to advance cheaper CdTe thin-film solar technologies, which were developed in the USA and make up 20% of the modules installed in the country. This consortium will advance low-cost manufacturing techniques and domestic research capabilities, increasing opportunities for U.S. workers and entrepreneurs to capture a larger portion of the $60 billion global solar manufacturing sector.
In addition, DOE announced US$7 million as part of a new funding opportunity for projects to increase the lifetime of silicon-based PV systems from about 30 years to 50 years, lowering the cost of energy and reducing waste. The aim is to improve PV system components, such as inverters, connectors, cables, racks, and trackers.