Energy Department Announces SunShot Startup Investments and Competition to Unleash Cost-Competitive Solar Energy

June 13, 2012

As part of the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative, which aims to drive solar to cost-competition with other energy sources by 2020, Secretary Steven Chu today announced a new competition and investments to make it easier and cheaper for utilities, businesses and consumers to deploy clean, renewable solar energy. While speaking at the SunShot Grand Challenge Summit in Denver, Secretary Chu announced "America's Most Affordable Rooftop Solar competition" to aggressively drive down the cost of rooftop solar energy systems as well as awarding nearly $8 million to nine start-ups to lower the cost of financing, permitting, and other "soft costs," which can amount to nearly half the cost of residential solar systems.

These announcements support the Department's aggressive goal of achieving cost-competitive solar energy by 2020. The Summit in Denver this week is convening the best and brightest minds in the solar industry to assess progress and plot the path forward toward the SunShot goal of solar price parity. Celebrating the SunShot Initiative's second anniversary, the Summit will highlight progress made by more than 200 SunShot partners and outline a path forward for solar energy innovation.

"As President Obama has repeatedly said, we need an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that deploys every available source of American energy, driving job creation, energy innovation and manufacturing leadership in our country," said Secretary Chu. "Through the SunShot Initiative, we're tackling the technological, scientific and market barriers facing America's solar industry to make sure solar power continues to play an important role in our diverse energy mix. The investments in American start-ups and the new competition announced today further our efforts to seize on the tremendous global market for clean energy technologies, representing hundreds of billions of dollars worldwide."

To spur the use of low-cost residential and small commercial rooftop solar systems across the nation, the Department is launching the first SunShot competition to challenge U.S. teams to quickly drive down the cost of installed rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems. "America's Most Affordable Rooftop Solar competition" offers a total of $10 million in prize money to the first three U.S. teams that can install 5,000 rooftop solar PV systems at an average price of $2 per watt. By setting an ambitious target, the competition aims to spur creative public-private partnerships, original business models, and innovative approaches to make solar energy affordable for millions of families and businesses.

Secretary Chu also today announced up to $8 million to support nine highly innovative startups through the SunShot Incubator program. These companies are developing transformative solutions to streamline solar installation processes such as financing, permitting, and inspection. This investment builds on the Incubator program's proven track record of attracting follow-on investment for solar startups at a ratio of $30 in private investment for every $1 of government funding. Since 2007, the Energy Department has invested more than $60 million in the Incubator program, accelerating the development of solar technologies that have since attracted more than $1.6 billion in private investment.

View the full list of projects selected for final negotiation of award.

The SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. Inspired by President Kennedy's "Moon Shot" program that put the first man on the moon, the SunShot Initiative has created new momentum for the solar industry by highlighting the need for American competitiveness in the clean energy race.