DOE Launches Effort to Bring Cost of Solar Down 75% by 2020


Photo Credit: Andreas Demmelbauer via Flickr/CC BY

In the days following Obama's State of the Union address, Stephen Chu took center stage in the energy arena to announce a "Sun shot" -- a government-funded effort to innovate the technology necessary to make solar power competitive against fossil fuels. The details of that plan have now been outlined: the Department of Energy will spend $27 million on a program designed to drastically bring down the cost of solar. Here's Reuters:

Energy Secretary Steven Chu dubbed the program a "sun shot" that was patterned on President John F. Kennedy's "moon shot" goal in the 1960s that called for the United States to land a man on the moon.

Chu said cutting the cost of installed solar power by 75 percent would put the price at about $1 per watt, he said, or about 6 cents per kilowatt hour. "That would make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of energy without subsidies of any kind," he told a conference call.

It's a laudable goal, a very necessary program, and I admire what Chu is attempting to do here -- but unfortunately, the highfalutin talk comparing the program to JFK's famous 'moon shot' is nearly baseless. Starting in 1961, NASA received between $1-5 billion for its budget annually until we landed a man on the moon -- an estimated total of $23 billion was spent on the space race.

$27 million in funding is a nice start, and it may sound like a lot -- but if we truly want to produce 'moon shot' caliber results (ie, cheap, plentiful clean energy tech in under a decade), Obama's going to have to put his money where his mouth is.

More on the Clean Energy Race
Steven Chu : Solar Should be 4 Times Cheaper by 2020
Obama's State of the Union : 80% of US Should Run on Clean Energy by 2035

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