When the Obama Administration and the Department of Energy introduced the SunShot Initiaitve in 2011 the goal of reducing the cost of installed solar power to $1 a watt over a decade seemed outlandish. After all, at the time solar power cost roughly $3.80 per watt installed.
It required a 75 percent price reduction in under a decade and it would bring the cost for utility-scale solar power to roughly 6 cents per kilowatt hour—making it cost competitive with all other electric sources. If the goal is realized the Energy Department said solar power could grow to 14 percent of the U.S. electric supply by 2030 and 27 percent by 2050.
Now, according to eight new reports from the Energy Department and its laboratories, the program is roughly 70 percent toward its 2020 goal and the cost of solar has fallen to $1.64 per installed watt. The department has tracked the reductions in solar costs and observed that the cost of utility-scale solar power dropped to 11.2 cents per kilowatt hour in 2014.
“Solar energy is an integral part of our nation’s ongoing energy revolution,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy, Dr. Ernest Moniz. “The U.S. has over 10 times more solar installed today compared to 2011 when the SunShot Initiative was first launched, and the overall costs of solar have dropped by 65 percent. The Administration’s continued efforts through the SunShot Initiative will help to further reduce costs to make solar energy more accessible and affordable for American families and businesses.”
The new reports, collectively the On the Path to SunShot study series, looks at what’s allowed the solar industry to succeed so far. They look at system-level improvements, streamlined access to solar and new business models to finance and invest in solar. They also look at what things are keeping solar power from becoming less expensive and potential ways to overcome such barriers.
“We are confident that the U.S. solar energy industry can achieve the SunShot goals by the end of the decade, with additional cost reductions and even greater solar energy deployment levels achievable in the decades to come,” wrote Dr. Lidija Sekaric, the Energy Department’s Solar Energy Technologies office director.
“One key insight drawn from these reports is that driving down the cost of solar has shifted away from focusing on the hardware and various processes required to sell, install, and interconnect a system,” Sekaric said. “The reports move toward a new measurement of success for the industry: improving the value of solar. This captures the idea that some kilowatt hours of solar electricity may be more valuable than others and more useful to some stakeholders than to others.”
One of the reports found that achieving the SunShot targets would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the electric generation sector by 10 percent between 2015 and 2050. “By displacing incumbent generation, solar could produce up to $426 billion in savings from future health and environmental damages and save more than 25,000 lives,” Sekaric said.Tweet