DOE's $7 Million to Help Trim 'Soft' Costs of Solar Energy Systems

November 23, 2011

Photo of two workers with a solar panel on a roof.

DOE is committing $7 million via the SunShot Incubator Program to reduce the non-hardware costs of residential and commercial solar energy installations such as installation.
Credit: Craig Miller Productions

DOE announced on November 15 up to $7 million as part of the SunShot Initiative to reduce the non-hardware costs of residential and commercial solar energy installations. The funds will support the development of tools and approaches that reduce non-hardware, or "soft" costs, such as costs related to installation, permitting, interconnection, and inspection. Soft expenses can amount to as much as half the cost of a residential system. This work is supported through the SunShot Incubator Program, and will make the process of buying, installing, and maintaining solar energy systems faster, easier, and less expensive.

The incubator previously focused on solving hardware challenges. This new round of funding applies to the soft costs of installing solar systems and acknowledges the vast potential for cost reductions in this area. The balance-of-system soft costs addressed by this funding opportunity include any non-hardware aspects of an installed solar energy system, such as labor, permitting and inspection, customer acquisition, financing, and contracting. Funding will be awarded in two tiers. Tier 1 includes awards up to $500,000 with a 20% cost share over 12 months to accelerate the development of innovative non-hardware concepts. DOE may issue approximately 3-5 awards in this category. Tier 2 includes awards up to $5 million with a 50% cost share over 18 months to transition innovative systems and solutions to the demonstration stage and eventually to full-scale deployment. DOE may issue approximately 1-3 awards in this category.

The DOE SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort to reduce the cost of solar energy by about 75% by the end of the decade. A primary objective of the SunShot Incubator Program is to launch new start-up businesses and new business units within existing commercial entities. Concept paper applications for soft-cost funding are due January 16, 2012. See the DOE press release, the funding opportunity announcement, an Energy Blog post, and the SunShot Initiative website.