US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu just pledged $27 million in funding for nine solar energy projects that will help with his “sunshot” effort — a plan to cut the costs of solar energy by 3/4 in the next decade. The “sunshot” is a play off of President Kennedy’s “moonshot” effort in the 60’s — that successfully put a man on the moon — and is part of the Obama Administration’s effort to push the country toward advancements in green energy. President Obama told the country in his State of the Union address that growth in new energy technology is our generation’s “Sputnik moment” and we must not let other countries beat us to the punch. Secretary Chu’s $27 million in cash grants for solar development will surely help that effort.
The $27 million in grants that Secretary Chu announced are going towards projects that are meant to strengthen the solar energy supply chain. Making the supply chain more stable helps to get technology from the development stage to the market quicker. Secretary Chu hopes his “sunshot” effort will bring the cost of large scale solar power installments down to the cost level of conventional — and carbon spewing — power installments, therefore making it more attractive to energy suppliers. The goal is for solar energy to cost about six cents per kilowatt which, “would make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy without subsidies of any kind,” Secretary Chu said.
Secretary Chu noted in his announcement that solar power is expensive for many reasons and that solar energy manufacturers and providers needed to cut costs in, “the installation, the mount, permitting, the renting or use of the land, you name it.’’ He also noted the dire need to make solar panels more efficient so that smaller tracts of land could be used to supply larger amounts of energy. Thanks in part to the Department of Energy investing $1 billion in solar energy in the last 10 years the cost of sun power has fallen 60%, let’s hope new investments keep coming and the dollar signs keep dropping off.