SunShot Prize Competition Launched

September 13, 2012 By Paul Nastu

As part of the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, which hopes to make solar energy competitive with other forms of energy without subsidy by the end of the decade, the Energy Department is starting a new competition to make it faster, easier, and cheaper to install rooftop solar energy systems.

The SunShot Prize makes a total of $10 million in cash awards available to the first three teams that repeatedly demonstrate that non-hardware costs, or price to plug in, can be as low as $1 per watt (W) for small-scale photovoltaic (PV) systems on American homes and businesses. This target represents a decrease in the “soft costs” of solar energy systems—including permitting, licensing, connecting to the grid and other non-hardware costs—by more than 65%.

While solar hardware prices have fallen 400% in the past four years, soft costs have not. The SunShot Prize hopes to inspire innovative, sustainable, and verifiable business practices that reduce these soft costs to $1/W. Achieving this target will bring the SunShot goal of $0.60/W for residential system soft costs within reach by the end of the decade.

During Phase I of the competition, winning teams will successfully deploy 5,000 small-scale (2-15 kilowatt) rooftop PV systems with non-hardware costs averaging $1/W. Phase II, which is intended to assess the business sustainability of the winning teams, calls for the installation of an additional 1,000 qualifying systems. The competition will run through 2015. The first-place winner will receive $7 million, second place will receive $2 million, and third place will receive $1 million for successfully achieving these goals. In addition to the cash award, the first-place team will officially become The Winner of America’s Most Affordable Rooftop Solar prize.

Visit the SunShot Prize website for complete registration and competition details.

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