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The solar industry recently passed a major milestone: the 1 millionth solar energy system was installed at a home or business in the United States. There were just 150,000 systems generating solar power when the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative was launched in 2011, which means that if just two of your neighbors went solar five years ago, 14 have since followed suit. Industry analysts expect the next million will be added in just two years. As more and more people across the country choose to go solar, the industry also spurs job growth, economic activity, tax revenue and cleaner air for all Americans.
As part of the industry-wide Million Solar Strong campaign, we’re taking a moment to celebrate this milestone and reflect back on some of the ways SunShot has contributed to the solar industry’s spectacular growth. The SunShot Initiative was founded by the Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office to focus on one goal—to drive down the cost of solar. Halfway into the mission, we’re 70% of the way to our goal of achieving $0.06 per kilowatt-hour.
Costs have plummeted while adoption has accelerated, and SunShot has led the way in addressing key roadblocks that could have stalled the solar industry. SunShot has spurred the development of the world’s most efficient photovoltaic and concentrating solar power technologies. Since 2011, eight SunShot partners have set more than 15 world records for solar cell efficiency. Energy Department investments are helping to drastically drive up solar efficiency and performance and contributing to a continuous drop in the cost of solar. Solar panels today cost about 1% of what they did 40 years ago.
While continuing to pursue research that cuts the hardware costs of photovoltaic and concentrating solar power technologies, our soft costs, system integration and technology to market teams have been making inroads in the broader solar landscape. Since 2011, projects supported by SunShot have won nine R&D 100 awards, a prestigious honor that annually recognizes the 100 most outstanding technology developments with promising commercial potential. SunShot’s trademark Incubator program has further demonstrated the power of government and industry partnerships—for every $1 in government investment into small solar businesses through Incubator, those companies have turned around and earned more than $22 in private follow-on funding.
With targeted support from the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, the solar industry is making major cost reductions, enabling technology innovation and market growth, and making significant progress toward cost-competitive solar by the end of the decade. Explore some of the projects we’ve enabled in our slideshow above and on our project map.
Of course, we’re not stopping at 1 million. The solar industry faces even more challenges as solar comprises more and more of the grid’s energy supply. In order to continue growing rapidly, the soft costs of solar—from financing to interconnection—need to drop further. In addition, grid operators need to be able to better manage variable distributed energy loads. These are just some of the challenges the SunShot team prepares for while expecting a not-too-distant future with several million solar installations. In the coming weeks, we will be announcing our ambitious plans for how we’re going to get there. Sign up to find out first what’s next for SunShot.