US Energy Department backs solar manufacturing industry with further $13 million

The U.S. Energy Department has announced that it will invest more than $13 million in five solar energy projects as part of its ongoing SunShot Initiative to support the country’s surging solar industry.

The money will be ploughed into five projects split across the two sectors of PV and CSP, with the ultimate aim being to strengthen domestic manufacturing, support a growing solar workforce, lower solar costs and speed up the commercialization, installation and adoption of new technologies.

The Energy Department is playing a key role in establishing the U.S. as a leader in clean energy development and deployment, with the Obama administration eager to imprint a lasting legacy of energy change and to increase the country’s competitiveness in the global solar power industry.

Following the recent publication of a Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) report that revealed that the U.S. solar industry for 2013 is set to break all records, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz was moved to act, and show that the government is further backing the industry.

"The strong, continued growth in the U.S. solar industry over the past few years is giving more and more Americans access to affordable clean energy," he said. "We have a tremendous opportunity for American manufacturing to lead the global clean energy market and help pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future."

Driving down cost

The $13 million investment by the Energy Department will be matched by an anticipated $14 million injection of funds from private cost share to help five companies in California, Colorado, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Oregon develop more efficient and cost-effective manufacturing processes for both PV and CSP technologies.

In Pennsylvania, PPG Industries is working on a technique aimed at cutting module manufacturing costs in half, while Suniva of Georgia will use the funds to help support their ongoing research into the development of low-cost, highly efficient silicon PV cells.

Since President Obama first took office, the U.S. has more than doubled its energy generation from solar, wind and geothermal sources, with the SunShot Initiative playing its part in helping the solar PV industry grow to more than 10 GW nationwide. With the government aiming to double renewable energy generation by 2020, there is still much work to be done, but the signs are positive that the U.S. has caught the solar bug and has no plans to shake it off any time soon.