As part of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) SunShot Initiative, Energy Secretary Steven Chu has announced up to $5 million available this year to develop plug-and-play photovoltaic systems that can be purchased, installed and operational in one day.
As the costs of solar PV modules continue to come down, soft costs and other non-module hardware costs, such as electronics and mounting hardware, now account for a majority of the total costs of systems, the DOE says. This trend offers significant opportunities to bring down costs through more efficient installation and permitting processes or new ways to affordably and effectively connect solar panels to the grid.
Plug-and-play solar energy systems are expected to make the process of buying, installing, and connecting solar energy systems faster, easier and less expensive – potentially unlocking major cost reductions in this area. Plug-and-play PV systems could be installed without special training or tools, and simply plugged into a PV-ready circuit, through which an automatic detection system would initiate communication between the solar energy system and the utility.
As part of a planned five-year program, the DOE will invest an initial $5 million this year for two projects that will develop innovative plug-and-play prototypes through partnerships with universities, industry, utilities and other stakeholders. The agency plans to make an additional request of $20 million to Congress over the next four years to support these efforts.