Trump Administration opens up $105 million in funding for solar research

A rumor has been circulating on the internet for some time that the Trump Administration had killed SunShot, the Department of Energy (DOE) program established under former President Obama to bring down the cost of solar energy and speed its deployment.

We at pv magazine can verify that these rumors are false. Not only is SunShot alive, but the DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) has announced that it will be taking applications for $105.5 million in funding that has been made available for solar research across a range of program areas.

SETO expects to fund around 70 projects which it says will address the “affordability, flexibility and performance” of solar technologies on the grid. This will be spread across several goals, with nearly half of the money at $46 million dedicated to power electronics, solar plus storage and PV-integrated sensor projects that will allow easier integration of solar on the grid.

Another $27 million will be dedicated to earl-stage research on solar PV, with an emphasis on increasing performance, reducing material use and processing cost, as well as improving the reliability of PV cells. $24 million will be dedicated towards advancing components found in concentrating solar power (CSP) plants.

These two buckets will support the new goals that DOE has set for SunShot under Secretary Rick Perry and Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Daniel Simmons. And this may be where some of the confusion about the state of SunShot lies.

In 2017 Simmons announced that SunShot’s goal of 6 cent per kilowatt-hour (kWh) utility-scale solar had been reached three years early. As such the Simmons EERE set new goals for SunShot, with a call to cut costs in half again, with residential to reach $0.05/kWh, C&I solar $0.04/kWh, and utility-scale $0.03/kWh. The office also set goals for cost reductions in CSP.

It is notable that while costs have been falling for all three, utility-scale goals have been easier to reach, while even the previous 9 cent per kilowatt-hour SunShot cost target for residential solar is still a long ways off.

SETO will hold informational webinars on the funding opportunities on April 23-24, and letters of intent to apply for the program are due on May 4.

More information for applicants can be found on the EERE site.