GE Working to Cut Solar Installation Costs in Half, Make Rooftop Solar More Affordable
Cost reductions would bring residential and commercial solar closer to parity with retail electricity costs, reduce the need for outside subsidies
GE investing hundreds of millions of dollars to increase solar power across the grid from the utility to homes and commercial properties
With the goal of making solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on rooftops more affordable for home and building owners, a team of scientists and engineers from GE Global Research, the technology development arm for the General Electric Company , is working on two projects aimed at simplifying and reducing the cost of solar PV installations. The projects are part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sunshot Initiative.
GE is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to promote the growth of the solar industry. Recently, GE’s Energy business announced plans to build the largest U.S. solar factory in Aurora, Colorado (outside of Denver) producing high efficiency thin film solar panels. Over the next three to five years, the new plant will create 355 advanced technology jobs in Colorado and another 100 new positions at GE’s Renewable Energy Global headquarters and Global Research Center in Niskayuna. This will add to the large team of scientists and engineers already working on cutting-edge solar technologies. The projects announced today are part of GE’s R&D efforts, which are focused on integrating more solar power at the utility, commercial and residential scale.
“Today, the average cost of installing a solar system on a typical home is $6.50 per watt, or $32,500. We want to cut the cost by more than half. At less than half the price, solar systems will be practical for millions of homeowners in the United States,” said Charlie Korman, Manager, Solar Energy Programs at GE Global Research. “To achieve such a radical cost reduction, new technologies are needed to simplify and standardize how solar installations are made. The process has to be as routine as putting a new roof on your home.”
Korman noted that the price of rooftop solar has dropped significantly as more and more installations have been made over time, but the prices are still not competitive with current electricity rates. He explained that getting solar installations into the $3.00 per watt range would make rooftop solar a much more attractive investment for millions of consumers in the U.S. For example, the value of the energy generated by a 3.00 per watt residential solar system (fully installed) would more than offset the monthly payment on a typical home equity installment loan.
The first of the two projects will be a $2.9 million program to improve some of the underlying technologies in residential solar systems that help reduce the cost of key components. This will complement another program GE has underway with the New York State Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) to reduce the costs of residential solar installations. The second program is a $3 million project focused on commercial rooftop applications. The goal here is to develop pre-wired and pre-configured components for easier installation of solar systems onto commercial rooftops.
The two solar projects with the DOE are closely aligned with GE’s ecomagination initiative. Ecomagination represents GE’s commitment to bring new technologies and products to market that help power the world in cleaner, more sustainable ways. The effort to reduce solar installation costs is a key part of a broader R&D portfolio to make solar a more viable energy source.