US Government Announces Funding to Boost Solar Energy Production and Availability
The Biden administration has announced more than $80 million in funding to increase the production of solar panels in the US, make solar energy accessible to more people, and explore alternative solar panel materials. The Energy Department is set to announce the investments on Thursday, with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to visit a community solar site in Washington in the afternoon.
Community solar initiatives have been identified as a priority, with the aim of expanding access to solar power beyond those who own their homes and can install panels on their roofs. The investments will focus on developing the solar capacity of renters and those without access to rooftops. Two weeks ago, US Vice President Kamala Harris announced the largest solar community effort ever in the country, which is set to spend $52 million on 19 solar projects across a dozen states, in addition to investing $30 million in technologies to integrate solar electricity into the national grid.
Furthermore, the DOE has also selected 25 teams to participate in a $10 million competition intended to accelerate the development of community solar projects. The funds are targeted towards meeting the Biden administration’s climate goals in a manner that benefits more neighborhoods across the country.
While the Inflation Reduction Act already provides incentives for the construction of larger solar generation projects, such as renewable energy tax credits, Ali Zaidi, the White House’s national climate adviser, says that this new money is focused on ensuring that climate goals are fulfilled in a way that benefits people in more areas. According to Becca Jones-Albertus, director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Solar Energy Technologies, the investments will help people save on their energy bills and improve the electric grid’s reliability, security, and resilience.
Community solar projects are of particular interest to Jones-Albertus, as around 50% of Americans lack access to buying and installing their own solar power. In a community solar system, households may subscribe to or invest in part of a larger off-site solar array, which can help tackle equity concerns, according to Michael Jung, executive director of the ICF Climate Center. Many of today’s rooftop solar panels benefit single-family homeowners, he added.
The new financing also highlights investment in next-generation solar technologies aimed at extracting more electricity from the same number of solar panels. Currently, only approximately 20% of the sun’s energy is transformed into electricity in crystalline silicon solar cells, which are the primary material used in solar panels. The latest announcement puts money toward the development of two other alternatives: perovskite and cadmium telluride solar cells.
Joshua Rhodes, a scientist at the University of Texas at Austin, claims that the investment in perovskites is excellent news because they can be produced less expensively than silicon and are much more tolerant of defects. They can also be incorporated into textured and curved surfaces, opening up more applications for their use than traditional rigid panels. As per information from the source, the US currently has 5.3 gigawatts of installed community solar capacity, with an aim to allow five million households access to it by 2025, which is about three times the current number, and is expected to save $1 billion on electricity bills.
Recycling solar panels and reusing rare earth materials are additional aspects of the renewed funding that will help reduce the requirement for mining, which damages landscapes and uses a significant amount of energy. The federal government hopes that clean energy will be feasible in every state in the country, with a solar project in Shungnak, Alaska, serving as an example of how solar energy can offer an affordable and practical solution to remote communities that currently burn diesel fuel for electricity.
In summary, the US government’s recent announcement displays an attempt to address climate change while ensuring equitable distribution of benefits to communities across America. The investments in solar energy and exploration of new solar panel materials will lead to the availability of clean energy in more places, offer savings to households, and improve energy security and reliability.
Reference: US invests in alternative solar tech, more solar for renters. (2023, April 20).Kstp. https://kstp.com/world/us-invests-in-alternative-solar-tech-more-solar-for-renters/