The Energy Department announced on January 30 its selection of seven data-driven projects to unearth new opportunities for reducing solar energy costs and accelerating solar energy deployment in the United States. The Department will invest about $9 million in the seven projects, located in six states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Texas. The projects are part of the SunShot Initiative, a collaborative national effort to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade.
For four of the projects, the Energy Department will provide $7 million to research teams led by Sandia National Laboratories, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Yale University, and the University of Texas – Austin (UT-Austin). These teams will partner with public and private financial institutions, utilities, and state agencies to apply statistical and computational tools to solve industry problems and lead regional pilot projects across the country to test the impact and scalability of their innovations.
For example, Yale University researchers will partner with SmartPower's New England Solar Challenge to design and implement innovative strategies that can increase the effectiveness of community-led bulk purchase programs for solar power. The team from the UT-Austin will work with complex datasets from six Texas utilities to better understand customer needs and identify opportunities to streamline installation and interconnection. Similarly, NREL will develop a computational model to analyze data from a network of U.S. solar installers and help identify new types of community- and regional-scale strategies to drive down financing and deployment costs.
The Department will also invest $2 million in three projects led by the University of North Carolina – Charlotte (UNC Charlotte), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and SRI International to analyze decades of scientific publications, patents, and cost and production data. SRI International will develop advanced software that reads and analyzes thousands of scientific publications and patents to discover new ways to speed solar energy technology innovation and commercialization. Meanwhile, MIT and UNC Charlotte will apply computational tools to patent, cost, and production data to speed up solar technology cost reductions and better forecast future cost reductions for new energy technologies. See the Energy Department press release and the full list of projects .