Scaling Up Solar: Obama Administration To Fund More Than $120 Million Across Several Programs


The Obama administration announced several sweeping initiatives designed to scale up clean energy in 15 states.

The administration will invest $120 million to backstop the transition to cleaner sources of energy, promote energy efficiency, drive innovation, and ensure a cleaner, more stable environment for future generations – including the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan. The funding builds on previously announced executive actions and private-sector commitments made by the president in August.

To further support the deployment of solar energy, the administration is taking the following executive actions:

Bringing new technology to market. The Department of Energy (DOE) is announcing the second-annual round of its $30 million technology to market funding opportunity to develop tools and technologies to reduce the costs for solar energy systems across all technology areas. The program is part of the Department's Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, aimed at boosting American competitiveness and supporting a strong, domestic, clean energy manufacturing sector.

Spurring next-generation technology. The DOE is releasing a $20 million photovoltaics research and development (R&D) funding opportunity to support up to 35 projects to advance the limits of photovoltaic cell and module performance. Successful applicants will demonstrate the ability to improve the power conversion efficiency, fielded energy output, service lifetime, or manufacturability of commercial and emerging solar technologies.

Supporting local governments. The DOE's SunShot program is announcing $13 million in Solar Powering America by Recognizing Communities funding to establish a national recognition and technical assistance program for local governments to help them eliminate market barriers and simplify the process for consumers and businesses to go solar. The program recognizes communities for achievements that distinguish them from their peers as they become more solar-friendly, and in doing so, ignites local solar markets while establishing consistency in solar practices across the country.

Reducing the timeline for residential solar. The SunShot prize challenges the ingenuity of America's businesses, organizations and communities to make installing solar energy systems in the U.S. faster, easier and cheaper. The goal is to reduce the permit-to-plugin total project time by 75%. SunShot will announce the names of the five teams participating in the SunShot Prize competition and the winners of the first ‘change prizes.’

  • Connecticut Permit-to-Plugin Team, Rocky Hill, Conn.;
  • Midwestern Solar, Poplar Bluff, Mo.;
  • Northern and Central California SunShot Alliance, San Francisco;
  • Sunrun, San Francisco; and
  • The Solar Auditor, Los Angeles.

Increasing concentrating solar power. The DOE's SunShot program is announcing $32 million in awards for 14 projects to advance all technical systems of concentrating solar power (CSP) plants, including solar collectors, receivers and heat transfer fluids, thermal energy storage, power cycles, and operations and maintenance. The R&D projects will improve the performance and increase the efficiency of every component within a CSP plant to lower the cost of CSP electricity, including at night, when these systems continue to deliver electricity through energy storage.

  • Abengoa Solar, Lakewood, Colo. (two awards);
  • Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Ill.;
  • Boston University, Boston;
  • Brayton Energy, Hampton, N.H.;
  • Ceramatec, Salt Lake City;
  • Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H.;
  • General Electric Global Research, Niskayuna, N.Y.;
  • Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore.;
  • Purdue University, Lafayette, Ind.;
  • SolarReserve, Santa Monica, Calif.;
  • Southern Research, Birmingham, Ala.;
  • Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas.; and
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisc.

Improving the quality of solar panels. The DOE's SunShot is announcing $7 million in funding for six projects focusing on research in physics, chemistry and advanced data analysis that will improve the quality of solar modules, develop improved product tests and new rapid testing techniques or instruments that can evaluate module reliability, and improve data models to predict solar module performance over time.

  • Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland;
  • Electric Power Research Institute Inc., Palo Alto, Calif.;
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, Calif.;
  • SunPower Corp., San Jose, Calif.;
  • Underwriters Laboratories, San Jose, Calif.; and
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Ill.

Expanding access to solar in rural areas. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is awarding nine grants totaling nearly $8 million to help reduce energy costs for residents in remote rural areas that struggle with a higher cost of electricity by promoting clean energy technologies. The awards included more than $2 million for projects that will provide solar power for electricity, refrigeration and cooking, and a solar distillation kit to procure safe drinking water to native Hawaiians in Milolii and bring solar power to affordable housing in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Highlighting veteran heroes. The DOE is launching a video profiling of its Solar Ready Vets training program, which connects our nation's transitioning veterans to the growing solar energy industry. As these active duty servicemembers prepare to enter the civilian world, the Solar Ready Vets program trains them for careers as solar system installers, sales representatives or system inspectors and then connects them to job opportunities with leading national and local solar companies.

Supporting states in advancing clean energy. The DOE's State Energy Program recently awarded $5 million to 11 states to advance innovative approaches for local clean energy development that will reduce energy bills for American families and businesses, protect the environment by reducing carbon emissions, and increase our nation's energy security. The states awarded are as follows:

  • Alaska Energy Authority;
  • The State of Maine;
  • Minnesota Division of Energy Resources;
  • Missouri Division of Energy;
  • Nebraska State Energy Office;
  • New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning;
  • New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department;
  • New York State Energy Research Development Authority;
  • Tennessee Office of Energy Programs;
  • Vermont Planning and Energy Resources Division; and
  • Virginia Division of Energy.
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments