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Clean Power solar soft cost infographic

Published on December 5th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

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DOE Calls For More Support Bringing Down The Soft Costs Of Solar, Could Be You! (+ Infographic)



The US Department of Energy (DOE) and many others have identified the “soft costs” of solar as the biggest cost barriers that need to be knocked down in order to unleash a true solar revolution in the US. As I’ve noted previously, the soft costs of solar are enormously larger in the US than in the much more mature German solar market, making the overall cost of going solar in Germany about half what it is in the US. The DOE’s response? The SunShot Initiative, which many CleanTechnica writers have covered at one point or another, but none as much as Tina. There’s a lot going on there to bring down the cost of solar in the US, and there are clear successes already, but the DOE is looking for even more applications.

The DOE just sent along an article by the DOE’s solar program managerMinh Le, as well as a related infographic (below). The article intro, titled “Breaking Down Barriers,” is as follows: “New research shows that the non-hardware “soft costs” of a solar energy system – such as permitting, customer acquisition, and operations – now account for up to 64% of the total price of installing residential solar energy systems in the United States. As the cost of solar panels and other hardware have dropped tremendously, soft costs are soaring. These costs also stand as the greatest barrier to deploying more residential solar energy systems throughout the country. That’s why the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative is working to lower soft costs in order to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by 2020.”

Le goes on to note the progress of SunShot winner EnergySage (which we’ve covered in depth and love) as well as recent winners kWh Analytics and Folsom Labs.

Additionally, Le notes what the SunShot folks are looking for and how easy it is to apply:

In the most recent round of the Solar Incubator program, SunShot announced $10 million to fund outside-of-the-box ideas to lessen solar’s hardware and soft costs. Some of the solutions to tackle this challenge will be driven by software innovations. SunShot is looking for big thinkers, zany creatives, data geeks, app developers, software engineers, and others to devise new approaches to attack soft costs.

Winning applicants could receive up to $500,000 in funding to bring their innovative product or service to the marketplace. Just draft a concept paper that includes a description of your project, summary of qualifications, a short business plan, and other required items and the payoff could be solar’s next  big technology breakthrough.

Since 2007, the SunShot Incubator program has supported 71 projects, with Incubator protégés in the private sector attracting more than $1.8 billion in venture capital and private equity investment. That’s a $16  return for every $1 invested. Your company or idea could be next!

I can’t say how much I’d love it if (another) CleanTechnica reader won a SunShot grant. So, if you think you have a good idea, go for it! And feel free to reach out to me for feedback — a handful of people interested in applying to this program have done so in the past.

For picture fun and solar facts, here’s that infographic noted above:

solar soft cost infographic

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • Wayne Williamson

    wow..the 75 vs 7.5 hours pretty much says it all.

  • Kyle Field

    Awesome post and one that resonates with me. We need to make it easier and cheaper for people to move into the future with solar. I experienced this exact cost differential when installing through a provider ($820/panel after rebate cost) vs on my own ($320/panel after rebate cost). Granted, I didnt go through the permitting, nor did I require the system to be wired (again) or engineered (again) for the second phase…but it could have easily been a 50% reduction in cost just be cutting out the extraneous soft costs (not to mention the reduction in time-to-install).

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Thanks for the real-world perspective.

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