What's the Latest Development?
In an effort to make solar energy the most affordable power source by 2020, the Department of Energy has issued a $10 million prize for deploying 5,000 new rooftop solar panel installations at an average price of $2 per watt—the target cost without any subsidies. "Each of the 5,000 required installations must have a power range between 1 and 15 kilowatts... They must also be installed between Aug. 1, 2012, and Dec. 31, 2014." In 2010, the average American home used 1.3 kilowatts per hour, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
What's the Big Idea?
Called the SunShot Prize, the DOE's solar challenge is not the first cash incentive to be offered by the government for technological innovation, but it does signal an increasing shift toward private enterprise when it comes to realizing big ideas at relatively low costs. Energy Secretary Steven Chu also announced "up to $8 million in separate awards going to nine U.S. startups — companies focused on making solar installation easier and cheaper. That investment builds on the SunShot Incubator program's record of getting $30 in private investment for every $1 of government funding."
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