As part of the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, the Department on September 12 announced the start of a new competition to make it faster, easier, and cheaper to install rooftop solar energy systems. The SunShot Prize makes a total of $10 million in cash awards available to the first three teams that consistently demonstrate that the non-hardware costs, or price to plug in, can be as low as $1 per watt (W) for small-scale photovoltaic (PV) systems installed on American homes and businesses. This target represents a decrease in the “soft costs” of solar energy systems—including permitting, licensing, connecting to the grid, and other non-hardware costs—by more than 65%. The winning teams will demonstrate that solar energy is an affordable solution for families and businesses in the United States.
The SunShot Prize is meant to inspire innovative, sustainable, and verifiable business practices that reduce soft costs to $1/W. Achieving this target will bring the SunShot goal of $0.60/W for residential system soft costs within reach by the end of the decade. During Phase I of the competition, winning teams will successfully deploy 5,000 small-scale (2–15 kilowatt) rooftop PV systems with non-hardware costs averaging $1/W. Phase II, which is intended to assess the business sustainability of the winning teams, calls for the installation of an additional 1,000 qualifying systems.
The competition will run through 2015.The first-place winner will receive $7 million, second place will receive $2 million, and third place will receive $1 million for successfully achieving the competition’s goals. In addition to the cash award, the first-place team will officially become “The Winner of America’s Most Affordable Rooftop Solar” prize. 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 and SunShot Prize website.