The latest announcement from the US Department of Energy (DOE) is that it’s giving a $5 million boost to the development of “plug-and-play” solar power systems — “photovoltaic (PV) systems that can be purchased, installed and operational in one day.” The $5 million will go to two projects. The DOE is also requesting another $20 million from Congress over the next four years to encourage the development of such technology.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu made the announcement this week.
“The Department’s announcement today supporting plug-and-play solar energy technologies will help make it easier and cheaper for consumers to adopt clean, affordable solar energy, while supporting U.S. manufacturing leadership in the next generation of clean energy technologies and diversifying America’s energy portfolio,” Chu said on Tuesday.
The DOE website adds: “This effort is part of the Department’s broader strategy to spur solar power deployment by reducing non-hardware, or “soft” costs, such as installation, permitting, and interconnection, which currently amount to more than half of the total cost of residential systems. The funding will help drive innovations to fundamentally change the design and installation of residential PV systems, reducing costs for homeowners and simplifying installations and grid connectivity.”
These soft costs and non-module costs (i.e. electronics and mounting hardware) now account for over half the cost of a solar PV system. Bringing them down is seen by many as the most low-hanging fruit today.