Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Reaching for the Sun with Steven Chu

Why reach for the moon, when we can go for the sun? That’s what Energy Secretary Steven Chu aimed for in 2011, when he launched the SunShot Initiative to improve solar technologies and reduce costs. The program’s goal: to make solar competitive with any other power source -- without subsidies.

So far, it seems the sun was not too lofty a target. Chu may be stepping down as Energy Secretary, but he’s leaving on a high note with great hopes for the future. At a recent Google Hangout on the solar industry, he expressed his excitement about the present and future of solar and his conviction that solar is close to being as cheap as any other power source: “This is not something that’s going to happen twenty to thirty years from today. This is going to happen ten years from today, maybe sooner.”

At the Hangout, Chu and panelists from the solar industry provided plenty of reasons to feel good about solar’s future. They pointed to improvements on the technological front, such as increases in the efficiency, reliability, and longevity of systems -- similar to what we’ve seen happen with computers. What to expect for the future: at least a decade of continued improvements. And within that decade, Chu aims for the U.S. to be a world leader in R&D, deployment, and manufacture of solar products.

But there’s a lot more to what’s happening than just technological improvements. An important part of the SunShot Initiative is tackling “soft costs,” such as financing and permitting -- or as Chu puts it, the “red tape and hassle factor.” Because of drops in hardware prices, those soft costs now make up more than half the cost of installing solar.

Read more: https://joinmosaic.com/blog/reaching-sun-steven-chu

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