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Today, the Energy Department is announcing $32 million in funding to help train American workers for the solar energy workforce and to further drive down the cost of solar by developing innovative low-cost concentrating solar power collectors and increasing access to critical solar data. The Department is making up to $12 million available to develop a diverse, well-trained solar support workforce, including professionals in the insurance, real estate and utility industries, who consumers rely on when they choose solar. An additional $5 million will fund projects aimed at increasing market transparency and access to key solar energy datasets, and $15 million will fund projects to develop new designs for concentrating solar power (CSP) collectors, the most expensive component of CSP systems. Altogether, this funding will help make solar energy more accessible and affordable for American families and businesses.

“Last year, a new solar energy project was installed every two and a half minutes in the United States,” said Deputy Secretary Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall. “To ensure the continued growth of the U.S. solar industry and our clean energy economy, it is critical that we support workforce training programs that will give American workers the skills they need for well-paying jobs and also make sure American consumers have access to highly-trained, credentialed professionals when they choose solar to power their daily lives.”

Training American Workers to Build a Vibrant Workforce

To further support the Administration’s Solar Ready Vets initiative and the President’s goal of training 75,000 solar workers by 2020, the $12 million funding opportunity announced today will advance America’s solar workforce by funding projects to train technicians for solar careers and provide other professionals in related fields such as real estate, insurance, finance and fire and safety  with the solar information they need to do their jobs. Projects selected under this program will also create new credentials for solar energy professionals and ensure a wide diversity of Americans continue to enter the solar workforce.

This funding builds on the success of the SunShot Initiative’s Solar Instructor Training Network, which has trained more than 30,000 students to enter the solar energy workforce in the past five years, and the Grid Engineering for Accelerated Renewable Energy Deployment (GEARED) program, which is aimed at training the next generation of power systems engineers to meet the needs of America’s rapidly changing energy portfolio. An efficient, well-trained workforce familiar with solar will improve inspection compliance, expedite system permitting, reduce liability and insurance costs, and increase consumer confidence.

Fostering Innovation to Drive Down Costs

The funding opportunity for up to $15 million for CSP will focus on driving innovative solutions to reduce the cost of the solar collector field, which is the most expensive element of a CSP plant – comprising up to 40 percent of the total system cost. Whether for parabolic troughs, heliostats, linear Fresnel or dishes, CSP systems use fields of hundreds or thousands of collectors to capture solar energy before converting it to electricity. The seven to ten funded projects will reduce the cost of the collector field while improving accuracy and durability.

Sharing Data to Foster Solar Deployment

The Energy Department will also provide up to $5 million to boost transparency and fair pricing in the solar energy market by expanding efforts to collect, manage, exchange, and secure solar datasets such as electricity production and financial performance data. This data has widespread use for key solar stakeholder groups including developers, utilities, inverter manufacturers, and financial institutions. The approximately three to six funded projects will create new capabilities that enable existing solar databases across the industry to interact more efficiently. By improving data access and establishing industry-wide standards for solar energy system performance, this effort will enable innovative new business solutions to increase solar energy adoption in the United States.

These funding opportunities build on the work of the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative to build markets that support solar businesses and increase solar access and deployment, making solar energy affordable and accessible for all Americans.