Announcing the news yesterday, April 24, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the funding will "fundamentally change" how residential photovoltaic systems are designed and installed, thus helping to reduce costs and improve grid connectivity.
The DOE says it will invest an initial amount of $5 million in 2012 in order to support two projects, which will seek to develop "innovative" plug-and-play prototypes, through partnerships with universities, industry, utilities, and other stakeholders. It has additional plans to make a request to Congress for an extra $20 million over the next four years.
The department invited universities, industry, utilities, local authorities having jurisdiction, national laboratories, and other stakeholders to submit letters of intent by May 16, 2012, and full applications by June 18, 2012.
In a statement released, DOE said there are "significant opportunities" to lower system costs further, due to the fact that "soft", and other non-module hardware, costs now account for the majority of total system costs, as opposed to photovoltaic modules, which used to comprise the lion's share of costs.
"Plug-and-play PV systems could be installed without special training or tools, and simply plugged into a PV-ready circuit, through which an automatic detection system would initiate communication between the solar energy system and the utility," added the statement.
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