U.S. Department of Energy re-affirms commitment to solar with $59m endowment

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced continued funding worth $59m to support solar energy innovation.

The investment is divided into two tranches of $45m and $14m. The first of those tranches, known as the Technology to Market Funding Opportunity, is to be made available to quickly move innovative solar technologies to market. The second tranche, collectively called 15 Solar Market Pathways Projects, is funding for fifteen projects to help communities develop what the department called ‘multi-year solar deployment plans’.

Ernest Moniz, energy secretary, said, “As President Obama noted in his State of the Union address, the U.S. brings as much solar power online every three weeks as we did in all of 2008. As the price of solar continues to drop, the Energy Department is committed to supporting a robust domestic solar manufacturing sector that will help American business meet growing demand and help American families and businesses save money by making solar a cheaper and more accessible source of clean electricity.”

The Technology to Funding Market Opportunity is formed as part of the department’s Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative and combines the three SunShot Initiative programs Incubator, Solar Manufacturing Technology, and Scaling Up Nascent PV at Home.

Awards under the Solar Market Pathways Projects have been granted to the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE), the Department of the Environment for the city and county of San Francisco, the City University of New York, the Cook County Department of Environmental Control In Illinois, the Council of Independent Colleges In Virginia, Ecolibrium3, Extensible Energy, The Institute for Sustainable Communities, Midwest Renewable Energy Association, Pace Energy and Climate Center, the Salt Lake City Corporation, the Solar Electric Power Association, the Solar Foundation, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, and The Virginia Electric and Power Company/Dominion Virginia.

Initial funding for the second tranche was announced in April 2014.

One such undertaking under the Solar Market Pathways Projects is the CSE’s expansion of the awareness, effectiveness, and use of virtual net metering in the state and beyond. Virtual net metering allows a multi-meter property owner to allocate a solar system’s energy credits to other tenants. The CSE was awarded $712, 269 under the Solar Market Pathways Projects, with its own cost share of just under $180 000.

Ben Airth, senior manager at CSE, said, “Nearly all of the residential solar energy installations in California have been made on single-family housing, yet a third of the state’s residents live in multi-unit dwellings, and in addition, there are tens of thousands of multimeter commercial facilities. The regulations that permit virtual net energy metering were put into effect in California several years ago, but for a variety of reasons both solar contractors and property owners have not taken advantage of the potential for energy and cost savings.”

The largest individual award under the scheme is to the Virginia Electric and Power Company/Dominion Virginia, which was given a little over $2.4m, with a cost share of just over $600 000 for a project to develop sustainable models for solar deployment across Virginia and the south-eastern parts of the U.S.