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The Energy Department's SunShot Initiative focuses on making solar electricity cost-competitive by the end of the decade. | Photo courtesy of Dennis Schroeder/NREL.

The Energy Department's SunShot Initiative focuses on making solar electricity cost-competitive by the end of the decade. | Photo courtesy of Dennis Schroeder/NREL.

About two years ago, my good friend Arun Majumdar, director of ARPA-E, coined the term “SunShot” in one of our meetings. We decided then that all of the solar program efforts going forward would focus on the common goal of making solar electricity cost-competitive by the end of the decade. Such a goal was incredibly ambitious, so it was fitting that the initiative’s name would be inspired by President Kennedy’s “moon shot” speech that launched NASA’s effort to put a man on the moon.

We have been doing everything in our power to reduce energy costs for consumers and to ensure that American innovators and companies can lead the global transition to a clean energy economy. As the price of solar panels has decreased, the solar energy industry in the United States has exploded. Solar installations doubled from 2009 to 2010, and the domestic market grew to $6 billion in 2010.

We now know that SunShot goals are within our reach. By tapping into the best and brightest minds in science, industry, and academia, we are already making progress. The SunShot Initiative is funding more than 250 projects that explore every possible way to drive down the cost of solar, from developing an efficient solar cell that’s as thin as a human hair to creating a GIS-based tool that can perform site assessments from space. But there is much work left to do. 

The SunShot Grand Challenge: Summit and Technology Forum next month will give us the opportunity to highlight the progress of the past two years and reassess the challenges that must be overcome in order to reach the 2020 goal. We are inviting everyone who is contributing to this effort to join us at what promises to be an exciting event June 13–14 in Denver, Colorado.

The SunShot Summit represents the first in a series of Grand Challenge events. As part of President Obama’s innovation strategy, these gatherings shine a spotlight on departmental objectives that capture the public's imagination and inspire breakthroughs in science and technology.

We have put a man on the moon and mapped the entire human genome. Now let’s dramatically increase newborn survival rates. Let’s make electric vehicles as affordable as gas guzzlers. Let’s find out what it would take to send humans to another star. And let’s make solar energy as cheap as coal.

Register today to attend the SunShot Grand Challenge: Summit and Technology Forum.