The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $21 million in new funding to help lower solar energy deployment barriers and expand access to solar energy in the country.
The department says it is making $13 million available to help states take advantage of falling solar prices and maximize the benefits of solar electricity through energy and economic strategic planning. This new program will offer technical and analytical support in the development and implementation of solar energy deployment plans.
In 2015, solar was the second-most installed source of new electric generating capacity – but this remarkable growth has been limited to a handful of states, says the DOE. Many states do not have the knowledge, time or staff resources needed to develop a robust solar deployment strategy. They might not know where to begin with “going solar” but require technical and analytical support. The DOE says this program will help to establish partnerships between states and utilities and provide them with technical support, enabling teams to develop strategies to determine optimal solar energy targets that will maximize emissions reductions, create jobs, expand energy access and increase grid resiliency.
An additional $8 million under this funding opportunity will support research on solar energy innovation and technology adoption patterns in order to increase understanding of solar deployment barriers and other “soft costs.”
By combining cutting-edge research tools with the creation, analysis, and use of data and information, this second round of the Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies (SEEDS) program will partner researchers with data and energy experts. Through this collaboration, they will examine how solar technologies, the electric grid system and the institutions that comprise the solar business marketplace support or inhibit the evolution and adoption of solar energy.
“As the cost of solar technology continues to fall, it’s more important than ever that we lower the other barriers to solar deployment – soft costs,” explains David Danielson, the DOE’s assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. “The funding announced today will provide technical and analytical assistance to states in setting and meeting their renewable energy goals. This initiative will leverage decision science and solar datasets to build our understanding of how and why solar technologies are adopted to make it faster, easier and more affordable for families and businesses to choose solar to power their daily lives.”
According to the DOE, the U.S. has installed more than 24 GW of solar power – enough to power 5 million average American homes – and deployment is expected to accelerate as costs continue to fall and more residential, commercial and utility-scale projects come online. The DOE says these new investments support the broader goals of the SunShot Initiative to drive down the cost of solar power.