This year has seen hundreds of millions in cash flow from U.S government coffers for research into various solar technologies. The Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Initiative has been splashing cash on a multitude of projects, from subsidised rooftop solar power system installations on commercial buildings to cutting red tape for start-up companies trying to get a break in the industry.
The latest assistance package from the SunShot office could be read as a sign of the times for the U.S sector, which has come under fire from detractors accusing solar companies and the government of squandering taxpayer money on businesses doomed to fail, despite evidence to the contrary.
Ostensibly aimed at helping to bring the cost of producing solar energy down below six cents per kilowatt hour – the so-far elusive grid parity mark in the USA – SunShot, combined with the federal loans assistance scheme for large-scale solar projects, has provided the American solar sector and the economy as a whole with jobs figures growing at 10 times the national average.
The most recent funding to be announced by the DOE is a $60 million fund aimed at dramatically improving the efficiency of concentrated solar power (CSP) generation technology, probably the most banked-on source of large-scale solar power in America right now.
The DOE expects to invest in up to 22 projects and is asking industry, universities and national labs to develop new approaches in the design of collectors, receivers and power cycle equipment used in CSP systems.
With billions invested in multiple CSP plants throughout America’s South West, improving CSP generation to the point where it can once again compete with solar PV appears to be an important priority for the DOE.