Fraunhofer Centre granted funding for US solar cost-cutting drive

The Fraunhofer Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems (CSE) is to receive project funding from the US government to develop “plug and play” PV technology as part of a national drive to make solar energy affordable.

The Department of Energy’s (DoE) SunShot Initiative aims to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. CSE's 5-year, $11.7 million research project focuses on the development of "plug and play" solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that can be purchased, installed, and connected by homeowners without the need to engage outside consultants or contractors.

This project is part of a larger $21 million DOE investment aimed at developing technology solutions that reduce the "soft" costs of residential solar PV systems – the non-module hardware costs that now account for a majority of the total cost of residential systems, and represent a significant barrier to wider adoption of solar power in the US.

With DoE investment, CSE will create technologies, components, systems, and standards that reduce the cost of residential solar. The aim is to develop a range of pre-configured systems that can be selected, purchased, installed, and commissioned by a homeowner within one day – all without the need for dedicated building inspections.

Removing these sources of "soft cost" will make residential solar PV systems more cost competitive and attractive to homeowners, paving the way for a large new market for solar power production in the US, CSE said.

Massachusetts-based CSE plans to focus its efforts on accelerating solar deployment in Boston and Massachusetts, where the governor Deval Patrick has set the goal of reaching an installed solar energy capacity of 250MW by 2017, from 176MW currently.

As such, CSE will also enjoy the support of the Solarize program, a joint venture between Massachusetts Clean Energy Centre and Massachusetts department of energy resources' green communities division.

"Finding new ways to make solar more efficient and affordable will expand its use and drive expansion of the growing solar industry here in Massachusetts," said MassCEC CEO Alicia Barton McDevitt. "We're thrilled to support Fraunhofer in its efforts to develop innovative technologies to create a clean energy future for Massachusetts residents and businesses."

CSE is one of six research and development centres within Fraunhofer USA, a non-profit contract research and development organisation. Fraunhofer USA is a subsidiary of Fraunhofer in Germany.

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity