DOE funding to develop plug-and-play home solar energy systems

Washington, D.C., April 24, 2012 — As part of the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced up to $5 million available this year to develop "plug-and-play" photovoltaic systems that can be purchased, installed and operational in one day.

This effort is part of the DOE'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.

As the costs of solar PV modules continue to come down, soft costs and other non-module hardware costs, such as electronics and mounting hardware, now account for a majority of the total costs of systems.

This offers opportunities to bring down costs through more efficient installation and permitting processes or new ways to affordably and effectively connect solar panels to the grid.

Plug-and-play solar energy systems will make the process of buying, installing and connecting solar energy systems faster, easier and less expensive, potentially unlocking major cost reductions in this area.

Plug-and-play PV systems could be installed without special training or tools, and simply plugged into a PV-ready circuit, through which an automatic detection system would initiate communication between the solar energy system and the utility.

Plug-and-play systems are already in wide use in the computer and automotive industries. The Energy DOE believes that similar innovations can be made in the solar energy industry to reduce costs and simplify installations.

As part of a planned five-year program, the DOE will invest an initial $5 million this year for two projects that will develop innovative plug-and-play prototypes through partnerships with universities, industry, utilities and other stakeholders. The DOE plans to make an additional request of $20 million to Congress over the next four years to support these efforts.

DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accelerates development and facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality and economic vitality.

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