Skip to main content

The SunShot Initiative

In 2007, the amount of solar power installed in the U.S. was 1.1 gigawatts (GW). As of 2017, that amount has increased to 47.1 GW. Enough to power 9.1 million average American homes. If you're thinking "we've still got a long way to go," you'd be right. On the other hand, increasing installed power by 4300% deserves some attention.  How'd we do it?

The Department of Energy played an important role. In 2011, they initiated a program called The SunShot Initiative. They set targets for the years 2020 and 2030, by which times generating solar power would have become more affordable. More affordable on a utility scale, more affordable on a commercial scale, and more affordable on a residential scale. Thus far, they've succeeded in hitting the 2020 goal for utility-scale generation. Needless to mention, they reached that goal three years early. The goals, it should be mentioned, don't take subsidies into account. It's the technology, in the case of utilities, that's become more cost effective. Photovoltaic hardware has become cheaper, module efficiency has increased, and labor costs have declined.

How are the goals tested? Cost estimates are based on systems installed in an "average" solar location: Kansas City, Mo. The targets agreed upon for 2020 are 6 cents /kWh for utilities, 8 cents/
kWh for businesses, and 10 cents/kWh for residences. The 6 cents/kWh target has been achieved. Because wholesale power prices have been very nearly flat, and even declined, from 2010 to 2017, the utility goal was not adjusted for inflation. What's the 2030 goal for utility-scale generation? Three cents/kWh. Commercial and residential targets are 4 cents and 5 cents, respectively.

If longer-range goals can be achieved (grid integration, two-way power flow, increased demand response, optimal charging of electric vehicles), and combined with low-cost battery storage, solar power could be deployed nationwide. A a new energy balance among distinct energy sources emerges, the ability to integrate them will be key.

First, however, the slower decline in residential and commercial costs needs to be taken into account. Soft costs like sales taxes and overhead continue to drive up the cost of residential installations. The Department of Energy has said these expenses will be halved in the future. The biggest obstacle? Converting DC solar power to AC network power, known as inversion.  Without reliable inverter technology, as much as 50 percent of power is lost during inversion.

We're just a few inventions away from the new solar reality.



With thanks to Oilprice.com.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Carbon-Free Grid

March 3, 2018 - Scientists at the University Of California, Irvine; the California Institute of Technology; and the Carnegie Institution of Science recently published an article stating that the United States could meet 80 percent of its electricity needs with solar and wind power. To sweeten the deal, the price of solar and wind have been dropping rapidly. The remaining 20 percent could be provided by alternate sources of energy such as hydropower, geothermal, and biomass. These sources currently meet 8.5 percent of electrical demand, and can be expanded. The remaining deficit would be met by managing demand.

The larger grid required for transmission of solar and wind power would have to be continental in scale, or 12 hours' worth of the energy would have to be stored in new facilities. This degree of expansion would require hundreds of billions of dollars in investment. Storing the electricity with today's cheapest batteries would cost a trillion dollars, although the price …

Dicamba Drift and the Monsanto Merger

March 15, 2018 -
A lesson in evolution: When farmers spray weed killer on their fields, there will always be a small number of weeds that survive. They have a natural resistance to the weed killer in their genetic makeup. Those are the weeds that go to seed that year, their children producing a crop of herbicide-resistant weeds the following year. By the next year, the farmer's fields are producing more and more herbicide-resistant weeds. What's a farmer to do? For those unwise enough to remain on the chemical treadmill, there's only one solution. Buy a stronger weed killer - to which a small number of weeds will, inevitably, be resistant.

This is precisely what happened to farmers that use Monsanto's weed-killer, RoundUp.  Monsanto's low-cost, highly ineffective solution to RoundUp-resistant weeds was to sell these farmers Dicamba, an old chemical weed killer with a tendency to drift. When pesticides travel on the wind, or drift, they damage crops and human health…