The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded $21.4 million to fund nine new research projects designed to reduce the soft costs involved with solar installation and eight projects to focus on dealing with state- and regional-level solar market challenges.
While the costs of solar equipment — panels, inverters and racking, among others — keep going down, often at startling rates, the soft costs (installation, permitting, and connecting to the grid, for example) have stubbornly resisted attempts to bring them down. With 50 separate states and 39,044 general purpose local governments, standardizing the processes is difficult.
“Soft costs have been a pervasive barrier to widespread solar energy in the United States,” said Dr. Charlie Gay, director of the Solar Energy Technologies Office. “Finding new ways to cut these costs remains critical in accelerating solar deployment nationwide and making solar affordable for all Americans.”
Funding for the projects comes from the DOE’s Sunshot Initiative under its Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion studies (SEEDS) program and fall into two distinct areas:
Nine of the 17 projects will allow researchers to join data and energy practitioners to create, analyze and use solar data and other information to see how various contributors to the solar industry either support or inhibit its growth. The other eight new projects will provide technical and analytical assistance to states and regions as they create programs to meet their renewable energy goals.
The funding also introduces two new areas of research interest: low- and moderate-income (LMI) solar adoption and institutional decision-making.
Teams participating in this program will work to support solar planning efforts in 17 states plus the District of Columbia: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.