Shining the Light on Solar Energy: History of the SunShot Initative — Concentrating Solar Power

DOE In 2011 the Department of Energy began one of its most ambitious and successful initiatives to achieve significant progress in sustainable energy by reducing the cost of installed solar energy through a shared commercialization of solar technologies. Solar power in the U.S. passed the 10 GW capacity milestone in 2013.

History of SunShot Initiative: In 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) was tasked with achieving the goals of the SunShot Initiative: to drive down the cost of solar electricity to be fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by the end of the decade.

SunShot builds on a tradition of steady collaboration between DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program and solar industry pioneers. More than half of all solar cell efficiency records have been directly funded by SETO and 30% of all patents in the solar energy field are linked to patents attributable to the DOE. In fact, without the Energy Department’s involvement, the average solar photovoltaic (PV) module production cost per watt would have been $5.27 in 2008 rather than $1.92. DOE research and development efforts have accelerated solar industry progress by an estimated 12 years Read PDF.

Director’s Corner: The CSP Renaissance: 2013 was a big comeback year for concentrating solar power (CSP) in the United States with the commissioning of the Abengoa Solana plant, the first sync of the BrightSource Energy Ivanpah plant, and other major plants well along in their schedules. If 2013 was a big year for CSP, 2014 promises to be monumental. With about 1 GW of capacity still in the pipeline, CSP is experiencing a true renaissance moment in the United States.

And SunShot continues to grow strong, as it celebrates its 3rd birthday this week. With its steadfast focus on the ambitious cost target of 6 cents per kilowatt-hour without subsidy, DOE’s investments in the innovations and work of our partners throughout industry, academia, and the national laboratories are paying off significantly. Today, the levelized cost of electricity for CSP is about 8 cents per kilowatt-hour less than what it was in 2010 (see graphic)—that’s over the half-way mark in the reductions needed toward the SunShot target! Projects such as that at the University of Arizona (Awardee Spotlight) are demonstrating solutions that meet stretch targets of doubling the optical accuracy of glass reflectors.

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