Significant progress for the solar market: inside the US Department of Energy’s SunShot Summit

ASTI Newsletter | June 2014 Edition| By Eileen Hays


Last month in Anaheim, California, Optony’s American Solar Transformation Initiative team joined 800 leaders in the solar energy community at the bi-annual SunShot Grand Challenge Summit. Their objective: think big about tackling the challenges facing the solar industry, and find opportunities to scale up solar energy adoption.

The Summit was organized by the US Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, a program that aims to make solar energy cost-competitive with traditional fossil fuels by the end of the decade. Stakeholders from the solar industry, government, and academia shared their ideas and experiences in implementing innovative solutions in “soft cost” (all non-hardware related costs) reductions, financing, and grid integration. More than 200 SunShot grant recipients were represented with a variety of program models across all sectors – utility, residential, commercial, and technology.

The Summit also provided an opportunity for all seven Rooftop Solar Challenge II teams, including ASTI, to collaborate and share best practices that could be replicated nationwide. The teams brainstormed together in a breakout session focused on developing a national solar recognition program for entities in all sectors. Through interactions with other SunShot recipients, the ASTI team is now up-to-date on the latest opportunities for implementing new program models and technology demonstrations for Solar Roadmap participants.

The ASTI team had a Summit booth that highlighted the significant actions Solar Roadmap participants are taking toward reducing “soft costs” in their communities. Improvements are being made in permitting, planning and zoning, financing, interconnection, distributed generation tariffs, and market development. A national audience of solar market stakeholders and project sponsors at the DOE recognized the Solar Roadmap and praised the ASTI program’s progress thus far.

Drawing parallels to JFK’s ambitious moon shot goal to put astronauts on the lunar surface in 10 years, SunShot is already more than 60% of the way to reaching its own ambitious target of $0.06 per kilowatt-hour for utility-scale PV just three years after its launch. The Director of the Sunshot Initiative, Minh Le, called on leaders to “develop innovative approaches to help achieve the final 40% to cost competitive solar in the U.S.” In his kick-off address, Mr. Le emphasized the federal government’s priority to support and ensure the success of the solar industry by helping to tackle the challenges outlined in the image below.

Image courtesy of the Department of Energy

Optony’s Senior VP, Ben Foster, who moderated a panel discussion on commercial solar financing, compared this year’s SunShot Summit to the one he attended in 2012: “In the past it was about recognizing the challenges in our industry and trying to come up with solutions. Since that time, the market has evolved so quickly that the conversations have shifted to, ‘we have many solutions, let’s find ways to scale them up and share the benefits nationally.’”

The benefits of solar are experienced locally, through economic development, cleaner air, and energy independence. As the Acting Director of DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), Dr. Cheryl Martin said in her speech, “We are charged to think boldly and differently about the community of innovators… to bring technologies to reality, and ultimately transform our energy future.” Now it’s up to local, regional, and statewide leaders to provide support for a growing and prosperous solar market.

For more information regarding the SunShot Initiative, visit



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