SunShot Grand Challenge Summit & Technology Forum-June 13-14, 2012, in Denver, CO


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My Dear Friends of the Sunshine,

It is with both hope and pleasure that I am bringing you report about an event that took place on June 13-14, 2012, at the Hyatt Regency in Denver, Colorado:  The SunShot Grand Challenge Summit and Technology Forum.  In addition to featuring the solar industry’s most influential leaders, the event showcased the work of more than 200 SunShot awardees.  The list of distinguished speakers at this SunShot Grand Challenge: Summit and Technology Forum were: Steven Chu (the 12th Secretary of Energy who is also the co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1997);

Participants gather for the plenary session in the SunShot Grand Challenge Summit & Technology Forum in Denver, CO, June 13-14, 2012 (Creative Commons)

Energy Secretary Steven Chu meets with students from Front Range Community College at an exhibit session (Creative Commons)

Dan Arvizu (Director and Chief Executive of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL);Harry Atwater (Howard Hughes Professor and Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science at the California Institute of Technology, active in PV research for more than 20 years);Bill Ritter (Colorado’s 41st Governor and the Director of the Center for the New Energy Economy, CNEE, at Colorado State University);Dorothy Robyn (Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment in 2009);Richard Swanson (one of the premier authorities on crystalline-silicon solar cell technology, processing, and manufacturing);John Woolard (President and CEO of BrightSource Energy, a developer of utility-scale solar power plants).

In 2010, the SunShot Initiative was established to decrease the total installed price of solar energy by 75% by 2020. Since then, photovoltaic module costs have been cut in half.  While there is still another factor of two to go before reaching a tipping point, in some markets cost-competitive solar is already a reality.  During the SunShot Grand Challenge Summit in Denver, CO, the event brought together more than 700 bright minds in solar to discuss what challenges lie ahead.  Among the many challenges: streamlining and standardizing solar permitting processes;convincing the financial community to embrace innovative technologies that have not yet been tested over long periods of time; and planning for infrastructure that will be able to handle high levels of variable solar energy inputs were discussed.

The audience listens to a presentation by Harry Atwater, Howard Hughes Professor during the plenary session(Creative Commons)

Energy Secretary Steven Chu is reflected in a Suspension Heliostat made by Solaflect Energy (Creative Commons)

Recalling that the first commercially available solar cells costed $400 per watt back in the 1960s and prices for the state-of-the-art installed PV systems were about $3 per watt at the utility scale by the end of 2010,  we’ve come a long way to have arrived at today’s bids for large-scale plants in the range of $1.20 per watt. (source: Ramamoorthy Ramesh, Director of the SunShot Initiative and Solar Energy Technologies Program)

Participants talk outside the plenary session (Creative Commons)

Researchers participate in a poster session (Creative Commons)

Dear readers, evidenced by the many innovations that’s been covered in , it is not difficult to imagine the day when we will drive down the cost of solar to $1 per watt for a fully installed solar energy system in the near future.  I am sure that the SunShot Director Ramesh had learned during his term that the seemingly impossible will one day be possible.  Until then, Secretary Chu is playing his part in speeding up this process by announcing the “America’s Most Affordable Rooftop Solar” competition to aggressively drive down the cost of rooftop solar energy systems as well as nearly $8 million to nine small businesses to lower the cost of financing, permitting, and other “soft costs”, which can amount to nearly half the cost of residential solar systems.  This will support the Department’s aggressive goal of achieving cost-competitive solar energy by 2020.  “As President Obama has repeatedly said, we need an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that deploys every available source of American energy, driving job creation, energy innovation and manufacturing leadership in our country,” said Secretary Chu.

The audience listens to a presentation by Dorothy Robyn Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment at the plenary session (Creative Commons)

Secretary Steven Chu looks at new technology with exhibitor Joe Sarubbi seated (Creative Commons)

Below, I have extracted pertinent paragraphs (in italics) from U.S. Department of Energy web site:

To spur the use of low-cost residential and small commercial rooftop solar systems across the nation, the Department is launching the first SunShot competition to challenge U.S. teams to quickly drive down the cost of installed rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems. “America’s Most Affordable Rooftop Solar competition” offers a total of $10 million in prize money to the first three U.S. teams that can install 5,000 rooftop solar PV systems at an average price of $2 per watt. By setting an ambitious target, the competition aims to spur creative public-private partnerships, original business models, and innovative approaches to make solar energy affordable for millions of families and businesses.

Secretary Chu also today announced up to $8 million to support nine highly innovative startups through the SunShot Incubator program. These companies are developing transformative solutions to streamline solar installation processes such as financing, permitting, and inspection. This investment builds on the Incubator program’s proven track record of attracting follow-on investment for solar startups at a ratio of $30 in private investment for every $1 of government funding. Since 2007, the Energy Department has invested more than $60 million in the Incubator program, accelerating the development of solar technologies that have since attracted more than $1.6 billion in private investment.

The SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. Inspired by President Kennedy’s “Moon Shot” program that put the first man on the moon, the SunShot Initiative has created new momentum for the solar industry by highlighting the need for American competitiveness in the clean energy race.

With all of these initiatives, the clean/solar energy economy is already here and poised for tremendous growth in the coming years.

For more details of this SunShot Grand Challenge Summit & Technology Forum, please feel free to visit:

~have a bright and sunny day~

Gathered, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker

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