US: SunShot's $1/W target for 2020 unlikely to be met

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The U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative seeks to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by the end of the decade.

Even though the advanced silicon technologies will be leading the cost per watt spectrum and maintain market share, none of the technologies will be able to fulfil the U.S. Department of Energy’s target of $1/W for 2020.

The new Lux Research report Continuing Education: Going Back to School for Photovoltaic Innovation takes a look at disruptive solar innovations. The most promising technologies at the moment, according to lead author and analyst Fatima Toor, are bifacial crystalline silicon modules, followed by tandem cell architectures for III-V and CIGS technologies. "These approaches will come closest to the target module costs and efficiencies by 2030. Other technology families such as OPV/DSSC and heavy metals are likely to be farther away," she added," Toor added.

Lux Research’s investigations show that today’s installation prices are two to four times SunShot’s targets of $1/W for utility, $1.25/W for commercial, and $1.50/W for residential installation prices. Even in the year 2030, improvements are bound to not hit these target prices and will leave installation prices 13% above the targeted utility installation price.

Further findings

China emerged as the country with the highest IP (intellectual property) generation. According to Lux Research this was driven by leading Chinese manufacturers like Trina Solar and JA Solar. The U.S. comes in second, followed by South Korea, the EU, Taiwan and Japan.

Venture capital funding has also "dried out" according to Lux Research. From 86 deals in 2008, the numbers fell to 34 in 2012 since many solar companies failed. Now established corporations need to partner with academic and government institutions to access PV innovation.

Five institutions lead corporate partnerships. IMEC, ECN, Georgia Tech, University of Delaware, and Arizona State University account for 136 of the 940 corporate research partnerships. Lux Research added that IMEC led in tie-ups with chemicals and materials manufacturers, while ECN and Georgia Tech focused on materials suppliers and equipment manufacturers active in crystalline silicon.