The Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems (CSE) has been selected to receive project funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) SunShot Initiative, a collaborative national effort 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 United States.
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 U.S.
CSE's Plug and Play will leverage efforts by Boston and Commonwealth of Massachusetts to accelerate the deployment of solar PV systems. As part of Massachusetts' renewable energy policies, Governor Deval Patrick set the goal of reaching an installed solar energy capacity of 250MW by 2017, reaching 176MW installed as of this month. Helping to meet that goal is the Solarize program, a joint venture between Massachusetts Clean Energy Center 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."
Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Mark Sylvia said, "This is another step forward in our effort to reduce soft costs for solar installations so that these prices continue to be competitive in the marketplace. Massachusetts has the most aggressive greenhouse gas emission reduction goals in the nation and work like this is fundamental to our success."