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SRNL receives grant to reduce solar energy costs

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Staff Report
Published Nov. 30, 2015

The Savannah River National Laboratory has received a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Energy Department to support reduction of “soft costs” associated with solar energy.

The SunShot grant comes on the heels of a new state law requiring greater dependence on solar energy. In order to accomplish that, the number of privately installed solar electricity generators must increase from less than 500 statewide to approximately 10,000.

The state currently has one of the highest expense rates in the nation associated with solar energy, the laboratory said.

“Current soft costs in South Carolina are projected to be at least 25% higher than the rest of the nation,” SRNL Principal Engineer Elise Fox said. “Soft costs are any non-hardware costs, or costs related to labor, taxation, overhead, permitting, and financing. We are trying to reduce those costs to the averages seen nationwide in order to help solar achieve grid parity.

“Over the course of the next five years, the installed solar capacity in South Carolina will mushroom from less than 20 MW to more than 300 MW.”

The laboratory will lead a team of industry partners in spreading the word on solar energy, influencing policy and educating a workforce. The team incudes SCE&G, Duke Energy and Santee Cooper, among a host of others.

“We will help develop training programs for certified installers, make recommendations on cost reduction strategies and help implement them, and we will help educate the public on what the new law means and how they can participate,” Fox said. “The cost of solar is much higher in S.C. than the rest of the nation, in part because this is an emerging area for us.

“Our primary goal is to close the gap between South Carolina installed costs of residential rooftop solar and national averages. The secondary goal is to develop a portable and replicable model that can be used in other states, particularly in the Southeast and rural areas.”

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