March 8 (in-en.com) — General Electric Co., BP Plc and Dow Chemical Co. are among 13 industry-led groups selected to share $168 million of government funding to design more useful solar technology.
Projects falling under the U.S. Department of Energy program will be designed to reduce the cost of power produced by photovoltaic systems, those that use the sun as a source of energy. The present cost is 18 to 23 cents a kilowatt-hour. By 2015 the cost could be cut to 5 to 10 cents a kilowatt-hour, the department said in a statement.
The average price of electricity in the U.S. during 2005 was 8.14 cents a kilowatt-hour, according to the Energy Information Administration.
“Solar technology can play a crucial role in moving toward affordable net-zero energy home and businesses — which combine energy efficiency and renewable energy produced on-site,'' U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said in a statement today.
The 13 groups include more than 50 companies, 14 universities, and two national laboratories. The partners are expected to contribute more than 50 percent of project funding, for a total of up to $357 million between 2007 and 2009.
Money for the program in 2008 and 2009 is dependent upon Congressional authorization, the department said.
More Funding Possible
Three more rounds of solar-project funding could come soon, Rhone Resch, president of Solar Energy Industries Association, said in a statement. They would support photovoltaic technology efforts and university research.
Resch urged Congress to extend federal tax credits by eight years to “put solar on the path to become the lowest-cost retail electricity source by 2015 and improve America's competitiveness in the global race for solar power market leadership.''
The current investment tax credit for solar, which covers 30 percent of the costs of installing systems, expires at the end of 2008.
The Energy Department asked Congress for $148 million in funding for solar energy projects for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, an amount that is unchanged from last year's request.
The grants range from about $2.3 million during the three years to $20 million for each group. Among the companies being funded are Boeing Co., SunPower Corp. and PowerLight Corp.