U.S. launches massive rooftop solar push

The DOE is using Stimulus act funds to finance the installation of a record number of solar panels on industrial rooftops across the United States.
Written by David Worthington, Contributor

The DOE is striving to lower the cost of solar panels by over 70 percent  by 2020. Image credit: Department of Energy Web page

The stimulus act of 2009 is waning down, but it is poised to make an enormous impact on solar power in the United States by matching a year’s worth of rooftop photovoltaic installations in a single project.

Today, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced a $1.4 billion conditional loan to support an effort known as Project Amp that will install solar panels on industrial buildings throughout the country. Approximately 733 megawatts (MW) of clean energy will be generated and added to the grid.

The project is nearly equal to the total amount of photovoltaics installed in the U.S. in 2010, the DOE stated in its press release. Panels will be installed on rooftops owned and managed by Prologis, and are sourced with 90 percent of components manufactured in the United Sates.

"This unprecedented solar project will not only produce clean, renewable energy to power the grid in states across the country, but it will help us meet the SunShot goal of achieving cost competitive solar power with other forms of energy by the end of the decade," said Secretary Chu. Chu noted that Project Amp is projected to create 1,000 jobs.

Another purpose of Project Amp is to advance the DOE’s SunShot goal of lowering the cost of solar systems up to 75 percent by 2020. It will produce up to one million megawatt hours annually, or enough energy for over 88,000 homes, the DOE says.

This week, Ernst & Young forecasted that prices of solar panels would plunge to $1.00 per watt.Research published by IHS iSuppli last week came to the same conclusion.

Last month, General Electric’s global research director predicted that new technology breakthroughs are making it possible for solar generated electricity to be the most economical choice within the next three to five years over fossil fuels and nuclear power.

Anti-nuclear sentiment in Germany, Italy, and Japan will likely only contribute to a growing economy of scale, as demand for solar panels increases globally. The outlook for solar power appears sunny.

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