SunShot Initiative funds efficiency, cost reduction programs


Among the diverse projects receiving financial grants from the U.S. Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative are a number of endeavors that will make the acquisition and construction of solar arrays easier and more efficient for both consumers and solar companies.

The $60 million in awards, announced on Tuesday, are part of the Department’s efforts to lower the overall costs of solar electricity, advance grid integration and support growing employment in the U.S. solar industry.

Forbes Magazine published a rundown of companies and projects that received federal funding from the Department. They include:

  • Minnesota-based Sun Number, which secured $1 million to analyze information about the materials and age of roofs and other data in order to create a "Sun Number Score." The score can then be used to help solar companies and homeowners more efficiently find the most adequate solar energy system designs for specific buildings.
  • West Virginia-based Geostellar, which will use its $750,000 grant to develop a "Solar Project Record" to collect solar energy production data from individual rooftops, utility rates, government incentives and local permitting rules for installing solar. The data will be made available to app developers to come up with ways to reduce the cost of financing, installing and maintaining solar panels.
  • California-based Sunrun’s development of software to reduce the process for setting up solar power projects, from automating design and securing permits to actual construction, received $1.6 million.
  • Demeter Power in Florida will use its $500,000 award to expand its recently launched online portal that brings together project developers and commercial building owners interested in using PACE — Property Assessed Clean Energy — to fund solar panel installations. PACE programs allow property owners to pay for solar projects by adding a line item to their property tax bills.
  • The National Renewable Energy Laboratory won $4.5 million in backing to develop new processes for making cadmium-telluride thin films that could convert 24% of the sunlight they receive into electricity. First Solar, a leading producer of cadmium-telluride thin films, is taking part in the project.
  • Arizona State University is leading a project with $3.5 million SunShot funding to create ultra-thin silicon solar cells that could reach 29% efficiency, up from the mid to high teens available in silicon cells currently on the market.
  • The Electric Power Research Institute, which represents utilities, is receiving $873,000 to create computer models and simulations to determine the impact of increasing amounts of solar electricity entering the grid in the southeastern United States. The study is aimed at helping utilities better manage their supply and demand.
  • The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association will use the $3.6 million to standardize designs for solar power generation projects ranging from 250 kW to 1 MW and develop efficient steps to finance and build those projects. The association plans to work with 15 cooperatives in 16 states to complete 23 MW of projects within three years.