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USA’s Energy Det program ‘Orange Button’ will bring down costs of solar power

Department of Energy Program Aims to Bump Solar Costs Even Lower A clean energy initiative goes beyond declining hardware costs to address the remaining barriers to embracing solar over fossil fuels. Inside Climate News BY DAVID J. UNGER MAY 2, 2016 While the solar industry trumpets the rapidly declining costs of solar panels—which have paved the way for solar energy capacity in the U.S. to GROW NEARLY TWENTY-FOLD SINCE 2008—those numbers don’t account for all the costs involved in the transition to clean energy. That is why a new government initiative aims to slash the overall price tag by better managing the reams of data associated with financing, building and operating solar installations.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Orange Button, a $4 million program launched earlier this month, seeks to streamline what experts say can be a costly, complicated and time-consuming path to bringing more solar panels online. By developing an easily downloadable, standardized set of data about individual solar installations, the DOE hopes to lower the bureaucratic barriers—as well as the excessive costs—that discourage investors, utilities and consumers from embracing solar.

Orange Button is part of the DOE’s SunShot Initiative, which launched in 2011 with the goal of making solar energy cost competitive with coal, natural gas and other traditional sources of electricity such as nuclear and hydroelectric power. If SunShot reaches its goal of reducing utility solar costs to $1 per watt by 2020, it will enable solar-generated power to expand from less than 2 percent of the nation’s electricity generation portfolio to roughly 14 percent by 2030 and 27 percent by 2050, according to the program’s vision study.

Similar programs have already been launched in other industries. The DOE’sGreen Button was launched in 2012, allowing utility customers to download standardized, consumer-friendly data about their energy usage. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Blue Button program offers people help accessing and transferring their health records.

Part of the challenge for solar is a lack of information. Compared to housing and other well-established markets, solar is relatively new, so banks, utilities, solar companies and other constituencies do not have a standardized set of metrics to share. The U.S. energy market has 18,000 jurisdictions and 3,000 utilities in regulated and unregulated markets, so navigating its idiosyncrasies costs time and money, said Elaine Ulrich, program manager at the DOE.

“When you look at the cost of financing for these solar projects, it’s artificially high,” Ulrich told InsideClimate News. “Solar is a long-term asset that has pretty well-known characteristics, but it’s treated as a higher-risk asset because there isn’t sufficient data available to help folks in the financial industry to know how to assess the risk of [a] portfolio of assets.”…….


May 6, 2016 - Posted by | renewable, USA

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