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SunShot Portfolio Technology Area Overviews

May 20, 2014 11:30AM to 12:30PM PDT

Pacific Ballroom

These sessions will offer a high level overview of the SunShot's Initiative's project portfolio, including each individual subprogram area.

Soft Costs

While recent technological advances have drastically reduced the cost of solar hardware, the non-hardware “soft” costs—such as permitting, financing, and customer acquisition—are becoming an increasingly larger fraction of the total cost of a solar system and now constitute up to 64% of the cost of a residential system.  SunShot’s soft costs subprogram addresses market transparency, workforce training, local solutions, and process improvements to make solar deployment faster, easier, and cheaper. In order to support reductions in solar soft costs and uniform access to solar, the soft costs subprogram has focused on the following activity areas:

  • Empowering state and local decision-makers through timely and actionable resources,  peer networks, and technical assistance
  • Harnessing big data, analysis and technical solutions to support the many stakeholders involved in solar deployment
  • Training an innovative solar workforce to enable the solar industry to meet growing demand
  • Developing solar finance and business solutions to expand access to capital and accelerate market growth
Concentrating Solar Power

SunShot’s concentrating solar power (CSP) subprogram focuses on technology advances and cost reduction research to enable CSP technology to take a larger role in the national energy portfolio. The CSP subprogram focuses on research and development of CSP component technologies and systems across collectors (solar field), receivers, power block (power plant) and thermal energy storage subsystems. CSP technologies use mirrors to focus and concentrate sunlight onto a receiver, from which a heat transfer fluid carries the intense thermal energy to a power block to generate electricity. A distinguishing feature of CSP is its ability to incorporate simple, efficient, and cost-effective thermal energy storage by virtue of converting sunlight to heat as an intermediate step to generating electricity. Apart from providing dispatchable power generation, CSP with thermal energy storage can also enable greater incorporation of other variable generation sources such as photovoltaics and wind on the grid. Furthermore, CSP systems can synergistically integrate with fossil-fueled power plants to offset fuel use and reduce carbon footprints. CSP, presents unique opportunities for the renewable energy space, and is a key enabling technology in the nation’s all-of-the-above energy strategy.

Photovoltaics Research and Development

SunShot’s photovoltaics (PV) subprogram funds transformative PV technology research and development with the potential to yield significant cost reductions, efficiency improvements, and improved reliability standards. SunShot also supports the development of next generation PV technologies to carry innovation in solar energy beyond 2020. These advances enable lower costs, increased efficiency and improved reliability to support the widespread deployment of electricity produced directly from sunlight. The activity areas of the PV portfolio are next generation PV, training next generation researchers, advancing PV efficiency, and cross-cutting PV efforts.

Systems Integration

SunShot’s systems integration subprogram aims to dramatically increase the penetration level and enable widespread deployment of solar in the nation’s electrical power system by addressing the associated technical and regulatory challenges. Considering a penetration scenario of 100 gigawatts of solar interconnected on to the nation’s grid, the challenges are quantified and addressed in the thrust areas of grid performance and reliability, dispatchability, power electronics, communications, and plant performance and reliability. The systems integration subprogram funds projects at the national laboratories, industry, and universities through competitive funding solicitations that map to the five thrust areas and targets.


Dramatic reductions in the cost of solar will enable the high penetration deployment of solar energy technologies. It is essential then, but insufficient, to discover new materials, build first-of-a-kind devices, or identify that we must simplify PV interconnection backlogs: to have real impact, we must also transition all of these solutions to the marketplace. As a taxpayer-funded program, the SunShot Initiative also aims to create domestic jobs through commercial activity in the solar sector. The technology-to-market subprogram builds on SunShot’s record of enabling groundbreaking devices and concepts in earlier stage programs with follow-on funding. Technology-to-market targets two known funding gaps in bringing new technologies to market:  the ones that occur at the prototype commercialization and commercial scale-up stages.