Listen Up: Let’s Talk About Solar Innovations

Many of the most significant industrial and technological innovations in the U.S. were discovered, commercialized and expanded with government support. Turn the clock a century or two and you can see how the government was behind oil drilling and refining, transcontinental railroads and our electric grid. More recently the government’s been successful with the space program, the internet and the biotech revolution. And these government efforts continue with solar.

To quote the DOE: “In 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) was tasked with achieving the goals of the SunShot Initiative: to drive down the cost of solar electricity to be fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources by the end of the decade.” 

Suffice it to say that over the past few years SunShot has already been the motivating factor behind dozens of solar innovations, including new financing concepts (Connecticut Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority’s “Green Bank,”), new flat roof and sloped roof PV mounting systems, clever CSP technologies, SolarTech’s work to reduce permitting costs, and the Rooftop Solar Challenge. There is considerable momentum behind the dozens of projects that are in the midst of their funding stages, may of which are focused on making solar more affordable by reducing soft costs.

SunShot staffers get into the field to understand real world problems and potential solutions. Sometimes that “field” is a steeply sloped roof — which is where I started this week’s interview with Minh Le, the Director of SunShot. After we moved to a more stable platform on the ground we had a good opportunity to talk about the overall SunShot program and how they reach out to solar industry participants. Please join me on this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World as Minh Le talks about SunShot’s progress in reducing solar hard costs (equipment) and soft costs, as well as their efforts to help new companies and technologies get into the hands of customers where they can do the most good.

Find more episodes of The Energy Show here.

About The Energy Show

As energy costs consume more and more of our hard-earned dollars, we as consumers really start to pay attention. But we don’t have to resign ourselves to $5/gallon gas prices, $200/month electric bills and $500 heating bills. There are literally hundreds of products, tricks and techniques that we can use to dramatically reduce these costs — very affordably.

The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World is a weekly 20-minute podcast that provides tips and advice to reduce your home and business energy consumption. Every week we’ll cover topics that will help cut your energy bill, explain new products and technologies in plain English, and cut through the hype so that you can make smart and cost-effective energy choices. 

About Your Host

Barry Cinnamon is a long-time advocate of renewable energy and is a widely recognized solar power expert. In 2001 he founded Akeena Solar — which grew to become the largest national residential solar installer by the middle of the last decade with over 10,000 rooftop customers coast to coast. He partnered with Westinghouse to create Westinghouse Solar in 2010, and sold the company in 2012.

His pioneering work on reducing costs of rooftop solar power systems include Andalay, the first solar panel with integrated racking, grounding and wiring; the first UL listed AC solar panel; and the first fully “plug and play” AC solar panel. His current efforts are focused on reducing the soft costs for solar power systems, which cause system prices in the U.S. to be double those of Germany.

Although Barry may be known for his outspoken work in the solar industry, he has hands-on experience with a wide range of energy saving technologies.  He’s been doing residential energy audits since the punch card days, developed one of the first ground-source heat pumps in the early ‘80s, and always abides by the Laws of Thermodynamics.

Lead image: Green microphone via Shutterstock

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