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Solar Energy SunShot gives $60 more for low cost solar power.

Published on October 25th, 2013 | by Tina Casey

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$60 Million More For Low Cost Solar Power

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October 25th, 2013 by  

The cost of solar energy has already plunged a whopping 70 percent in just three years, and it is set to dive right off the charts. The Department of Energy has just announced a new round of $60 million in grants from the innovative solar funding program that has been the driving force behind this impressive success, the SunShot Initiative.

Some of that SunShot money is going to a company called EnergySage, Inc., which is tasked with applying the “best practices of web-based shopping” to develop an online comparison tool that will help make it easier for consumers to compare prices for solar installations.

The “Other” Federal Marketplace

If that sounds vaguely like the idea behind the Affordable Care Act’s online Marketplace, healthcare.gov, that’s generally the idea. In fact, earlier this year EnergySage released a version of its shopping tool, which it calls the EnergySage Solar Marketplace.

SunShot gives $60 more for low cost solar power.

Rooftop solar panels courtesy of Arlington County.

As in the health care Marketplace, the Solar Marketplace providers are pre-screened and an automated format makes choosing among numerous options a relatively easy task, while competition for consumers helps keep prices in check.

The first version of the Solar MarketPlace received $500,000 in SunShot funding back in 2012. Based on the success of the Solar Marketplace so far, yesterday the company was awarded another $1.25 million to tweak it some more.

With the new funding in hand, EnergySage will develop the Solar Marketplace thusly:

Planned enhancements will allow consumers to evaluate the suitability, costs and benefits of solar panel systems at their own properties using real-time market data provided by the EnergySage platform prior to initiating the buying process.

The Solar Marketplace system currently provides automatic adjustments for consumers to compare prices and benefits among different sizes and types of installations, and among financing options, too.

As noted previously in CleanTechnica, one standout feature of the Solar MarketPlace is that it provides at least two tiers of engagement, enabling interested consumers to dig deeper into the technology details.

Aside from the obvious benefits to consumers, EnergySage also notes that the Solar Marketplace has benefited the bottom line for solar companies by providing national, mass market exposure to all qualified solar companies, regardless of their size.

Here’s the result, according to EnergySage:

Since its launch, the EnergySage Solar Marketplace has demonstrated its success in closing sales at a much higher rate and shorter sales cycle time than the industry average.

$60 Million In Funding For Low Cost Solar Energy

The EnergySage award is a good example of SunShot’s singular focus on the goal of driving down the cost of solar energy by any means necessary, rather than focusing exclusively on improving solar cell efficiency.

To that end, the new round of funding devotes $12 million to 17 companies that will help lower the “soft costs” of solar power. That includes the Solar MarketPlace as well as a new rooftop solar mapping tool and automatic installation systems designed for utility-scale solar plants.


The new round also addresses “hard costs” with $16 million in funding for advanced single-junction solar cells (loosely speaking, single-junction refers to solar cells made of one material), and $7 million for durability and performance measurement improvements.

Another factor that can help drive down costs is grid integration, and projects in that field will get $8 million. Some of that funding will go to 150 counties through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, to help local electric cooperatives bump up their integration of solar power.

Workforce availability and quality is also a key component in solar costs. To help feed the solar industry a steady stream of qualified workers, the new funding includes a total of $16 million for regional training consortiums, with another $ million going to help ensure education and training opportunities for minority students.

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About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • Nick

    Let’s hope it works better than the nearing one Billion daollar joke of a website obamacare. It’s also a joke that it’s called affordable seeing the only numbers that actually get out.

  • JamesWimberley

    Good article, silly headline. There’s no reason to think that a few grants for rather obvious work to lower soft costs a penny or two will have any dramatic effect. We should value such progress for what it is, not for what it isn’t.

  • Marion Meads

    How about much more funding for cheaper or plug-n-play solar PV installation whose savings really get passed down to end users instead of lining the pockets of installers? Solar PV manufacturing is a dead end economics. Even if they get the panels so cheap that they become free, the total installed price is the same!!!

    I want the $60M back. It will not give the most bang from the buck when invested into solar PV manufacturing, but rather, that money is best spent for programs and methods that would lower the cost of installations.

    • JamesWimberley

      If you read the article with more care, you would know that most of the grants reported are precisely for soft costs and grid integration, not shiny new panel technology,

      • Marion Meads

        The $16M though is for the hard costs. I can develop the comparison charts for the solar shopping for half the price. It shouldn’t cost that much with many canned software packages abound. Let us hope that those software will not favor one or few major company that chipped in some “development” costs as what happened with shopping for airline tickets. It should be more eBay-like.

        • JamesWimberley

          The grant to EnergySage was $0.5m. It is a bit surprising they couldn’t raise the money from venture capitalists, but it’s still very cheap.

          Only 26% of the money is going to hardware (though this is supported on a larger scale by other programmes), the rest to soft costs. The impression I get from the list is that Moniz has his head screwed on right.

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