U.S. Department of Energy

    Energy Department Invests $29 Million in Solar Energy Grid Solutions

    December 12, 2012

    The Energy Department on December 7 announced a $29 million investment in four projects that will help advance affordable, reliable clean energy for U.S. families and businesses. These projects, part of the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative, are aimed at improving grid connection and reducing installation costs through innovative plug-and-play technologies and reliable solar power forecasts.

    The Department announced a $21 million investment over five years to design plug-and-play photovoltaic (PV) systems that can be purchased, installed, and operational in one day. Plug-and-play PV systems will make the process of buying, installing, and connecting solar energy systems faster and less expensive for homeowners. Fraunhofer USA’s Center for Sustainable Energy Systems in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will develop PV technologies that allow homeowners to easily select the right solar system for their house and install, wire and connect to the grid. Additionally, North Carolina State University will lead a project to create standard PV components and system designs that can adapt simply to any residential roof and can be installed and connected to the grid quickly and efficiently. This effort is part of the Department’s broader initiative to bring down "soft" or non-module hardware costs.

    The Department also announced an $8 million investment in two projects to help utilities and grid operators better forecast when, where, and how much solar power will be produced at U.S. solar energy plants. The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, based in Boulder, Colorado, will research methods to understand cloud impact and develop short-term prediction techniques based on this work. Also, the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Armonk, New York, will lead a new project based on the Watson computer system that uses big data processing and self-adjusting algorithms to integrate different prediction models and learning technologies. These projects are working with the Energy Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association to improve the accuracy of solar forecasts and share the results of this work with industry and academia. Enhanced solar forecasting technologies will help power system operators to integrate cost-competitive, reliable solar energy into the electricity grid.

    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. See the Energy Department press release.