The US Department of Energy (DOE) revealed its latest funding under the SunShot Initiative with a US$7 million effort for the reduction of non-hardware costs of residential and commercial PV installations. The funding will fall under the DOE’s SunShot Incubator Program and is set to support the development of tools and approaches that diminish non-hardware, or “soft” costs, including installation, permitting, interconnection and inspection. The DOE noted that these expenses can make up half of the cost of a residential system stating that the Incubator program is a better way to buy, install and maintain a PV system at a more cost effective rate.

The DOE noted that the BOS soft costs attended to with this funding include non-hardware aspects of an installed solar energy system including labor, permitting, inspection, customer acquisition, financing and contracting. The department is looking for applicants that will develop data-driven software tools, streamlined processes and new approaches to bring down the non-hardware cost.

“Even if you paid nothing for the hardware, you'd still pay thousands of dollars to install a residential solar power system,” said US Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “This SunShot Initiative will help reduce costs such as permitting and installation, and spur American innovation to deploy solar energy at homes and businesses across the country."

Funding for the initiative will be awarded in two tiers. Tier 1 includes awards up to US$500,000 with a 20% cost share over 12 months to fast-track non-hardware concepts. The DOE may issue anywhere between three and five awards in the Tier 1 category.

Tier 2 will see awards up to US$5 million with a 50% cost share over 18 months to help convert new systems and solutions to the demonstration stage and, eventually, to full-scale deployment. The DOE plans to issue between one and three awards under Tier 2.

Concept paper applications are due by January 16, 2012. For more information, including application requirements, click here.