Solar ‘Cheap as Fossil Fuels’ in Ten Years; Offshore Wind Areas Unveiled

by | Feb 8, 2011

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has unveiled initiatives aiming to make solar power as cheap as fossil fuels, and stimulate 10 GW of offshore wind development, in the next decade.

The DOE said the solar initiative, dubbed as a “sun shot” by energy secretary Steven Chu – in reference to John F. Kennedy’s “moon shot” goal of landing a man on the moon in the 1960s – would reduce the cost of solar power by 75 percent.

Chu said that would put the price of installed solar power at about $1 per watt, or about six cents per kWh, and allow solar energy systems to be broadly deployed across the country.

“That would make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of energy without subsidies of any kind,” Chu said, according to Reuters.

The initiative includes $27 million awarded to nine projects to support the development, manufacturing and commercialization of solar energy technologies.

The DOE and Department of the Interior yesterday also announced up to $50.5 million for projects that support offshore wind energy development, and identified several high-priority Wind Energy Areas (pdf) in the mid-Atlantic.

The areas are offshore of Delaware (122 square nautical miles), Maryland (207), New Jersey (417), and Virginia (165), and will receive streamlined reviews to lessen the time for project approval and leasing, the DOE said.

The Department of the Interior said it could offer leases in these areas as early as the end of 2011.

The Interior said it hopes to identify Wind Energy Areas off of north Atlantic states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island, in March. The department said it will carry out a similar process for the south Atlantic region, especially North Carolina, this spring.

The $50.5 million, spread over five years, is aimed at developing breakthrough offshore wind technology and removing market barriers.

The departments also published a joint plan called the National Offshore Wind Strategy (pdf). The plan calls for deploying 10 GW of offshore wind by 2020 and 54 GW by 2030, with development in both oceans, the Gulf Coast and the Great Lakes.

The plan focuses on three key challenges to offshore wind: the high cost, technical challenges, and lack of site data and expertise with permitting processes.

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