Podcast: Tech Jocks And Sun Shots

on July 19, 2011 at 2:00 PM

President Obama launched the SunShot Initiative in his State of the Union Address this year, inspired by President Kennedy’s moonshot program. Its ultimate aim is to drive down the costs of installed solar systems to a dollar a watt.

Ramamoorthy Ramesh is the Director of the US Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative and Solar Energy Technologies Program. He is a self-confessed “tech jock” on a mission to achieve the dollar-a-watt goal, which would mean a 75% reduction from today’s prices.

In this podcast, Professor Ramesh dismisses claims that the dollar-a-watt goal is as improbable as putting a man on the moon and says that the program is already on track to help the solar market reach maturity, and a future without subsidies, by the end of the decade.

He also explains how costs of solar will be made more competitive through lowering the costs of permitting, reducing the costs of components as well as the price for the “balance of systems”, or the wiring, switches and racks.

Prof Ramesh predicts that IT systems will unlock the cost competitiveness of solar so that having a PV system will be as ubiquitous in American homes as a TV or fridge.

Only 7 months into the job, hear how Prof Ramesh can already cite successes, such as the incubator program for innovation and how government can help startups traverse the funding “valley of death“.

But even Prof Ramesh admits that although the US has a “vibrant” innovation industry, more needs to be done to recapture the ground won by China in the manufacture of PV modules.