- The Department of Energy's SunShot program awarded $46.2 million in competitive awards to 48 early-stage solar technology and research projects this week, according to a release.
- The projects fall under two SunShot initiatives — the Photovoltaics Research and Development 2: Modules and Systems (PVRD2), which supports advances in solar photovoltaic technology; and Technology to Market 3 (T2M3), which is designed to support early-stage solar technology research.
- The funding announcement comes as the Trump administration defends its agency budget cuts for fiscal year 2018. The administration's proposed budget trims 6% from DOE's overall budget, but targets the SunShot program for a 71% cut.
The Trump administration's proposed budget for 2018 drew fire from critics after it was introduced in May. As the proposed budget weaves its way through Congress, DOE continues to award funding previously approved under the Obama administration, including this batch of grants.
SunShot allocated $20.5 million for 28 projects under the PVRD program and $25.7 million for 20 projects under T2M3. Since it is a competitive award, the projects are required to share costs with private sector funding, which is expected to yield $65 million in funding altogether for these programs. The Obama administration announced the funding opportunity last year, and the Trump administration approved the list of projects this year.
Despite the latest awards, support for cutting-edge clean energy technology has been harder to find from the Trump administration. The budget would trim only 6% from DOE’s overall budget, but targets its deepest cuts at clean energy programs. DOE's proposed budget would virtually eliminate the Advanced Research Project Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) with a proposed 93% budget cut and slash funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by 69%.
Supporters of the DOE's SunShot initiative worry the program will meet a similar fate after it was announced the program would face budget cuts up to 71%. The SunShot program was designed in 2011 to support solar technologies in order to cut down solar energy costs 75% by 2020. Combined with other DOE initiatives, solar integration costs have declined 60% since the program started.
The proposed Trump budget has not garnered strong support from Congress while DOE Secretary Rick Perry struggled to defend it against criticism at a series of hearings in the Senate last month.