The Department of Energy SunShot program has just announced a new set of grants designed to continue to reduce the cost of solar power. This grant solicitation is unusual in that it focuses on funding innovative proposals to lower the soft (non-hardware) costs associated with solar power, e.g., customer acquisition (such as bid preparation and contracting), financing and contracting (such as the cost of capital, insurance, legal agreements, and application processing); permitting, inspection, and interconnection; and installation and performance (such as labor, insurance, and service) (https://eere-exchange.energy.gov/). This SunShot Incubator Soft Costs Funding Opportunity Announcement is open to all non-hardware-related proposals that aim to bring to market a novel, non-incremental cost reduction solution that facilitates SunShot goals. Such soft costs comprise half of the cost of existing solar projects.
The announcement suggests that DOE is seeking to stimulate collaboration between the legal, financial, and technical participants in the process. While not explicit in the solicitation, one potential innovative approach might include efforts by trade associations to take advantage of economies of scale to offer more standardized and innovative provision of the soft services associated with a solar project.
The program includes awards up to $500,000 with a 20% cost share requirement over 12 months to accelerate the development of innovative soft technologies to the prototype/alpha product stage (Tier 1) and up to $5 million (anticipated award size of $1-2 million) with a 50% cost share requirement over 18 months for efforts that transition innovative alpha systems/solutions into a pilot/v1.0 release and eventually full-scale deployment (Tier 2).
An optional Notice of Intent to Apply is due by December 2, 2011. The Deadline for submission of Concept Papers is January 16, 2012, 5 p.m. EST and for the full application March 5, 2012, 5 p.m. EST. DOE will host one Q&A webinar on December 9, 2011, before the Concept Paper submission deadline and a second Q&A webinar on February 20, 2012, before the Full Application submission deadline.
For more on the SunShot initiative, see a prior blog post here.