The United States Department of Energy has committed US$50 million to fund the Scaling Up Nascent PV At Home (SUNPATH) program which represents the second phase of its Photovoltaic Manufacturing Initiative (PVMI).
Through its Sunshot Initiative, the Department has set a target to reduce the cost of solar energy systems by 75% before 2020 and hopes that the PVMI will spur a renaissance in the country's domestic solar manufacturing business.
According to the DOE, since 1995 when the U.S. dominated global solar manufacturing, producing 43% of all photovoltaic (PV) panels, the country's market share has been on a steady and rapid decline. In 2010, the United States' solar PV manufacturing presence hovered at 7 percent.
In phase one of the Photovoltaic Manufacturing Initiative, dubbed Sunshot Advanced Manufacturing Partnerships, the DOE committed more than US$110 million over the next five years to the U.S. Photovoltaic Manufacturing Consortium (US$62.5 million), Bay Area PV Consortium (US$25 million) and SVTC Technologies (US$25 million) for the development of advanced solar PV manufacturing processes. The Department hopes this investment will result in a "substantial" reduction in the cost of manufacturing PV modules.
Now in SUNPATH, phase two of the manufacturing initiative, the DOE will inject money over two years to close the funding gap hindering companies from scaling up operations and allow them to increase their level of production.
The launch of SUNPATH comes in the same week that an Ernst and Young report shows that in the last financial quarter, U.S. venture capital (VC) investment in cleantech was driven by solar investment.
Alhough the company's analysis shows a dip in cleantech investment from the record breaking Q2 2010, the US$1.1 billion invested in cleantech in Q2 2011 represents a strong quarter in the relation to previous quarters. At US$234.2 million solar financing represented 21% of the overall cleantech investment in Q2 2011. Leading the charge for this quarter, solar developer BrightSource Energy, secured the largest deal, receiving US$168 million from Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) for its Ivanpah solar farm.
With programs like the Photovoltaic Manufacturing Initiative the DOE aims to ensure projects like BrightSource's 392 MW Ivanpah installation employ parts manufactured in the U.S.
Commenting on the launch of SUNPATH Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, "This investment provides a necessary boost to domestic solar manufacturing businesses, encouraging them to keep jobs here and establish America's leadership in the world's growing clean energy economy."
He added, "In addition to invigorating clean energy manufacturing, this program will help achieve the SunShot goal of making unsubsidized utility-scale solar cost-competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade."
Image Credit: steel & silicon via Flickr
Any opinion contained in this article is solely that of the writers, and does not necessarily shape or reflect the editorial opinions of Energy Boom. Energy Boom content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be advice regarding the investment merits of, or a recommendation regarding the purchase or sale of, any security identified on, or linked through, this site.