Department Of Energy Proposed Budget Reduces Solar

In the fiscal year 2003 Department of Energy proposed budget released earlier this week, renewable energy resources face both budget increases and cuts.

Washington, D.C. 2002-02-11 [] One sector facing a cut is Solar Energy, which will see a budget decrease of two percent should Congress adopt the budget as presented. The budget request for FY 2003 for solar is US$87,625,000 down from US$89,442,000 in FY 2002 and down from US$91,694,000 in FY 2001. The budget sets several goals for solar energy research and development primarily focused on reducing the production costs of photovoltaic energy and researching “Zero Energy” buildings. According to the budget document, the decrease in overall funding reflects reduced funding for Concentrating Solar Power (CSP), “which shows little promise for further reducing solar energy production costs.” The budget reduces the CSP budget by 63 percent leaving funds only for completing an evaluation of a 25 kW dish systems at the University of Nevada. Photovoltaic energy systems fundamental research sees a proposed increase in funding to more than US$30 million from just over US$21 million in 2002 and sets a long-term goal of reach PV electricity produced for 6 cents/kWh. One industry insider agrees with the reduction of funding in CSP and said the reduction of costs in the PV industry is an attainable goal in the near future. “I am quite confident that within the next 3 to 4 years the 30 percent reduction in variable costs is a doable objective,” said Rex A. D!=Agostino, Ph.D., vice president for marketing and sales at Evergreen Solar, Inc. “As production expansion occurs, regardless of base technology, it is anticipated that the capital dollars-per-watt produced is spread over a wider production volume and therefore produces economies of scale.” According to the budget “Fundamental research aimed at major innovations is required to essentially double the conversion efficiency of thin films from their current eight to 10 percent to 15 to 20 percent and to increase the III-V-based, multi-junction cells from 30 to 40 percent under 500X concentration.” The proposed budget for solar water and space heating increases by US$1 million toUS$4 million and sets a goal of cutting the cost of solar water heating by 50 percent to an equivalent of 4 cents per kWh by 2004. According to the budget, the lower cost heaters is expected to expand the market by 200 percent. A big winner in the budget, which would benefit from other solar research is Zero-Energy Building (ZEB) Design, which increases over 400 percent to US$8 million. The budget states that ZEB “will be designed to optimally combine very energy-efficient building envelopes, appliances, lighting, advanced controls and heating/cooling systems with solar water heating and solar electric systems to eliminate the need for offsite energy on an annual basis.
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