In 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) was tasked with achieving the goals of the SunShot Initiative: to drive down the cost of solar electricity to be fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by the end of the decade.

SunShot builds on a tradition of steady collaboration between DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program and solar industry pioneers. More than half of all solar cell efficiency records have been directly funded by SETO and 30% of all patents in the solar energy field are linked to patents attributable to the DOE. In fact, without the Energy Department's involvement, the average solar photovoltaic (PV) module production cost per watt would have been $5.27 in 2008 rather than $1.92. DOE research and development efforts have accelerated solar industry progress by an estimated 12 years.

This timeline features the key innovations that have advanced the solar industry in the United States. Learn more about these key events from 1955 to present.