US utility-scale solar hits 2020 cost target - DoE

CSP park. Image by Bureau of Land Management.

Sep 13 (Renewables Now) - The average price of utility-scale solar in the US now is USD 0.06 (EUR 0.05) per kWh, meaning the sector has achieved its 2020 cost target, the Department of Energy (DoE) said on Tuesday and added it will now broaden its focus to other challenges such as grid integration.     

The cost target was set by DoE's SunShot Initiative, launched in 2011. The ambition was to reduce the cost of utility-scale solar installations to USD 1 per watt, or USD 0.06 per kWh, without subsidies, by the end of the decade so that they become competitive with traditional generation. A report on Tuesday by DoE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) showed the goal has been achieved three years early.

"With the impressive decline in solar prices, it is time to address additional emerging challenges," said Daniel Simmons, acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. While DoE will continue research to reduce costs, new funding programmes will also focus on areas such as grid reliability, resilience and storage, according to the announcement.  


In line with the new focus, the department announced two funding opportunities totalling USD 82 million for early-stage research in concentrating solar power (CSP) and power electronics. Up to USD 62 million will be provided to advances CSP technologies, which allow for using solar energy when it is needed. This initiative is expected to back 12 projects, with a concept paper due on October 27.

DoE will also support projects to further power electronics technologies for solar applications with up to USD 20 million. The programme is aimed at aiding the development of new technology to improve the devices that serve as the link between photovoltaic (PV) systems and the grid. Between 10 and 15 projects are expected to secure support. The deadline for a mandatory concept paper under this programme is October 12.

Winners will have to contribute 20% of the project costs, so the two programmes will result in total public and private investment of almost USD 100 million.

In 2016 the SunShot Initiative set 2030 cost goals of USD 0.03 per kWh, USD 0.04 per kWh and USD 0.05 per kWh for utility-scale , commercial and residential PV, respectively.  

(USD 1 = EUR 0.835)

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Plamena has been a UK-focused reporter for many years. As part of the Renewables Now team she is taking a keen interest in policy moves.

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