Since President Obama took office in 2009, U.S. solar energy capacity has grown more than twenty-fold. And solar stands to grow even more -- with renewable energy capacity in the U.S. slated to reach as much as 28 percent by 2030.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, announced earlier this year, is an ambitious plan to cut carbon pollution from the energy sector. The plan sets long-term market signals, driving innovation and investments toward a clean energy future. As it ramps up, the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative is working to prepare the industry to help states and local communities go solar and reduce carbon emissions even further.
Here are a few of the SunShot innovations that will help states meet President Obama’s climate goals:
1. We're making solar easier and faster to install and connect.
SunShot’s Rooftop Solar Challenge has shown that we can cut the time it takes to get solar permitted by 40 percent and lower the costs of those permits by 12 percent. From creating online permitting systems to providing technical assistance and expert advice at the local level, the projects have made it much less challenging for local governments to navigate solar permitting.
This year, that work continues with the SunShot Prize: Race to 7-Day Solar. Teams will compete for $10 million in cash awards as they work to reduce the time from permit to plug-in to just seven days for small photovoltaic systems.
2. We're preparing the solar workforce.
By investing in clean energy, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan will create thousands of new jobs, and SunShot’s training programs are a prime example. We are training the next-generation workforce for these in-demand jobs through the Solar Ready Vets program and the Solar Instructor Training Network. Launched in September 2014, Solar Ready Vets trains veterans transitioning into civilian life to work in the solar industry, and every single graduate has been offered a job in the solar industry. The training of vets will expand to 10 military installations in the next year. The Solar Instructor Training Network has more than 400 training sites and has prepared 30,000 students for careers in solar energy. By 2020, it will have trained 75,000 students.
3. We're getting more solar to the grid.
As more and more distributed energy gets added to the grid, incorporating solar into our nation’s energy infrastructure will pose technical challenges for utilities. But solutions are already in the works. In Hawaii, for example, where energy is expensive and sunshine is abundant, they are adding huge amounts of solar to the grid. Arizona, California and Florida are working with SunShot on similar projects.
Community solar may offer another solution, streamlining solar generation at the local level by allowing community members to buy into larger, shared solar arrays. This also allows grid managers to use solar to respond to and meet increased demand during peak times. SunShot’s National Community Solar Partnership is working to increase solar communities that enable low- and medium-income homeowners to take advantage of lower energy costs.
Across the nation, we have already made huge progress toward cleaner, more efficient power. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan will help us build on what we’ve accomplished.