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

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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7 thoughts on “Solar ‘Cheap as Fossil Fuels’ in Ten Years; Offshore Wind Areas Unveiled

  1. This is exactly the type of environmental and economic leadership the US needs. The 2007 book Apollo’s Fire: Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy may have been an inspiration becauise it provides many examples of alternative energy production and lays out plans for a government initiative similar to JFK’s “moon shot”. I look forward to watching as these projects come on-line.

  2. “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.”

    10 years? Great numbers, but they are a dream unless $$$$$$$…..money….greenbacks….hard cash…..are devoted to solar R&D..
    I don’t see anyone suggesting we spend the kind of money (tens of billions of $$$$$)required to keep our troops in Afghanistan and/or Iraq or, again perhaps, say…the billions of dollars of taxpayer money spent to make sure the the oil industry can show multi-billion-dollar profits quarterly to Wall Street and institutional investors.

  3. In addition…African contries with lots of sun and available land and people in need, could supply the world with bio-diesel and other bio fuels, based on highly competitive sugar cane. This will demand help from the west, but we must be all about it.

  4. How about just cutting off ALL subsidies and tax breaks to fossil fuels and giving it to renewables. Our economy would shoot past the moon. It wouldn’t cost the government one more penny that it is already been spending…..when will this happen and who will support it???? Now we see who runs for cover.

  5. Solar has been growing in the mid to upper double digits since shortly after Bush became president. We just need to keep up the progress to make solar cost competitive without any subsidies within the next 10 years.

  6. I would totally campaign for any candidate who supported the concept of removing all fossil fuel subsidization for even two years to target wind and solar and hydropowered alternatives like they have done in Europe. I have no doubt that the impact on the economy across the US would drive support for further investments, and then perhaps rather than worry about diverting money to prepare for an eventual nuclear waste storage program or more offshore drilling, we could begin to focus on more infrastructure projects that are not so dependent upon gasoline powered transportation systems as well.

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