The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $21.4 million in funding for 17 new projects to help reduce the “soft costs” commonly found with solar energy, such as installation, permitting and connecting to the grid.
As more U.S. consumers turn toward renewable energy each year, the DOE says nine of the awards will focus on how the solar industry can sustain and accelerate this growth by understanding the motivations and factors that influence the technology adoption process, particularly in low- and moderate-income communities. The other eight awards will focus on tackling solar market challenges at the state and regional levels through better strategic energy and economic planning.
“Soft costs have been a pervasive barrier to widespread solar energy in the United States,” said Dr. Charlie Gay, director of the DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, which leads the SunShot Initiative. “Finding new ways to cut these costs remains critical in accelerating solar deployment nationwide and making solar affordable for all Americans.”
The projects are funded by the SunShot Initiative under two distinct topics:
Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies (SEEDS)
The SEEDS program leverages decisions based on science and solar datasets to improve the understanding of how and why homeowners and businesses choose solar energy. Nine of the 17 announced projects will partner researchers with data and energy practitioners to create, analyze, and use solar data and other information in order to examine how solar technologies, the electric grid system, and the institutions that create the solar business marketplace support or inhibit the evolution and diffusion of solar technologies.
This second round of funding under SEEDS introduces two new areas of research interest: low- and moderate-income (LMI) solar adoption and institutional decision-making. Projects focusing on LMI communities will focus on identifying solar adoption barriers other than cost, while identifying ways to more effectively engage these communities in the growing solar marketplace. Projects examining institutional decision-making aim to reveal the factors driving change within institutions as they relate to solar and how institutions within a given system – for example, one university within a state university system – can influence such change.
State Energy Strategies (SES)
Through SunShot’s SES work, project teams from state energy offices, regional energy providers, and their partners have the opportunity to gain the planning insights that can support their individual goals to maximize solar’s benefits within their various communities. Eight of the newly announced projects will help to better inform states on how to more effectively adopt solar by providing technical and analytical assistance to help them meet their renewable energy goals. According to the DOE, these projects will benefit states at two phases in the solar energy planning process: during the creation of solar deployment targets and identification of strategies to achieve these goals, and then during the implementation of these strategies. For instance, teams may seek technical and informational assistance from the DOE to better understand system performance projections, transmission and distribution constraints, or the economic and environmental benefits of various solar programs and projects.
Teams participating in this program will work to support solar planning efforts in 17 states plus the District of Columbia: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
View a list of the 17 new awardees here.