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Federal Solar Investments on the Rise

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Though our current administration in Washington may not outwardly promote renewable technologies, the Department of Energy's $128 million selections for new solar projects is evidence that at least some renewables do transcend party lines.  In what Energy Secretary Rick Perry has referred to as an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy the DOE has been willing to place bets across sectors. 

The recently announced fund focuses on 5 key areas including: 

Photovoltaics research and development

Concentrating solar power research and development

Balance of Systems Soft Cost Reduction

Innovations in Manufacturing through a Hardware Incubator

Advancing Solar Systems Integration Technologies 

One standout area among the many covered by the initiative looks to be photovoltaics research and development to the tune of $23.6 million for 21 projects that are meant to cut the cost of PVs by 50%.  This should make solar technology more widely affordable for the U.S. public and businesses alike.  Though solar penetration in the U.S. has grown at a healthy clip, the manufacturing business for PVs is dominated by Chinese firms who for years have been heavily state-subsidized. If the DOE grant can live up to its aims of reducing materials and manufcaturing costs and improving PV reliability, then much will have been accomplished. If it can do so while leveraging and investing in America's small PV manufacturing base, then an even greater feat will have been achieved.

While a lot of manufacturing industries have long since left these shores, America could still become a larger player in the advanced and highly skilled manufacturing for solar technologies.  Though advanced manufacturing becomes more automated with time, the U.S. should still claim it's rightly piece of the action and grow it so that we not just self-reliant vis-a-vis the natural gas and oil sectors, but also increasingly independent in the world of solar and renewable technologies. 



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