New Sunshot Funding To Harness Big Data

The latest round of funding for solar energy projects in the USA will harness the power of Big Data to help boost the nation’s renewable energy uptake.

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot initiative – which aims to cut the cost of solar energy production in the U.S. – has funded many projects since its inception in 2011.

The latest support will see a total of $7 million going to Sandia National Laboratories, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Yale University and the University of Texas-Austin for research focusing primarily on the deployment of  residential rooftop solar power systems across the nation.

The funding will go towards developing computer models that will analyse data from solar panel installation companies and determine the most effective ways to roll out solar power systems.

The primary focus of Yale University’s research will be community-led bulk solar purchase programs, such as Oregon’s Solarize campaign. Solarize has delivered more than 1.7 megawatts of rooftop solar power in that state and is seen a grass-roots success story. 

Solarize operates on a solar buyers group model, where members of a group use their collective buying power to install residential solar photovoltaic system at well below market prices.

“Through powerful analytical tools developed by our nation’s top universities and national labs, we can gain unparalleled insight into solar deployment that will help lower the cost of solar power and create new businesses and jobs,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu*.

A further $2 million will fund University of North Carolina–Charlotte, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and SRI International to develop software to analyse thousands of scientific publications, technological breakthroughs and patents published over decades; with view to providing a clear picture of how best to accelerate technological breakthroughs and remove roadblocks that prevent further cost reduction.

*This funding announcement marks one of the last from the very pro-solar Chu in his capacity as US Energy Secretary. On February 1, 2013, Chu announced his resignation, but will continue to serve until after the ARPA-E Summit at the end of February; or possibly beyond that date until a new secretary is appointed.