Above Photo: FIRST SOLAR/DOE
The Trump administration has announced that a federal goal to slash the cost of utility-scale solar energy to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2020 has been met early. The goal, set by the Obama administration in 2011 and known as the SunShot Initiative, represents a 75 percent reduction in the cost of U.S. solar in just six years. It makes solar energy-cost competitive with electricity generated by fossil fuels.
The Department of Energy attributed achieving the goal so quickly to the rapidly declining cost of solar hardware, such as photovoltaic panels and mounts. And it said it will next focus its efforts on addressing “solar energy’s critical challenges of grid reliability, resilience, and storage,” according to a press release.
The DOE also announced $82 million in new funding for solar research, particularly for research into “concentrating solar” — which uses mirrors to direct sunlight to generate thermal energy — and into improved grid technology. It set a new goal to reduce the cost of solar even further: 3 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2030.
The new funding and focus on solar energy seems to counter President Trump’s energy strategy. The White House proposed cutting Energy Department funding for solar research by 71 percent, to $70 million, in its 2018 budget request, according to Bloomberg News.