In an effort to make solar energy at large scale cost competitive with other forms of energy, the Department of Energy (DOE) launched the SunShot Initiative on February 4, 2011. Updating the original SunShot vision, the Solar Energy Technologies Office set goals for 2030. The SunShot cost targets aim to reduce the cost of solar electricity an additional 50% between 2020 and 2030.[1] The goals that SETO set for 2030 include cutting the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of photovoltaic solar by an additional 50% to $0.03 per kWh for utility-scale and cut the LCOE of concentrating solar power to $0.05 per kWh for baseload power plants. Another area of interest is the grid integration challenges and market barriers to solar adoption.[2]

In March 2021, the DOE’s SunShot initiative announced a new target to drive down the cost of utility-scale solar from 4.6 cents per kilowatt hour ($.0.046/kWh) to $0.02/kWh by 2030. Because of the SunShot program’s success of achieving the 2020 goal three years early, the DOE is confident to build on this success for their new target goal and solar power could grow to supply 50 percent of U.S. electricity by 2050. SunShot’s goals for commercial solar ($0.04/kWh) and residential solar ($0.05/kWh) require cost reductions of more than 60 percent from the 2018 benchmark costs.[3]


The DOE Solar Decathlon is a collegiate competition, comprising 10 contests that challenges student teams to design and implement cost-effective, energy-efficient, and innovative buildings powered by renewable energy. To win, teams must blend design architectural and engineering excellence with innovation, market potential, building efficiency, and smart energy production. The combined competition features two tracks, the Design Challenge (annual) and the Build Challenge (biennial). The program aims to train the participating students to work in the clean energy workforce and education students about the latest technologies and materials in zero energy design, smart home solutions, and high-performance buildings.[4]

The Solar Decathlon is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary in 2022 and has challenged more than 25,000 students to create efficient, affordable buildings using renewable energy. The race to zero competition joined the Solar Decathlon in 2019 and the 2022 Design Challenge is currently underway, culminating with the Solar Decathlon Competition Event in April 2022.[5]


The Solar District Cup is a DOE multidisciplinary collegiate competition administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) that challenges student teams to design and model distributed solar energy systems for multiple buildings on a local electrical distribution network. These systems will integrate solar, storage, and other distributed technologies and capabilities across mixed-use districts, or groups of buildings served by a common electrical distribution feeder, such as a campus, a development, or an urban area. The competition engages students across the engineering, urban planning, finance, and business disciplines to reimagine how energy is generated, managed, and used in a district.[6]

Teams will compete in multiple divisions, each with a distinct district-use case.  Winners will be based on the quality of their solar energy system design. The strongest concepts will provide the highest offset of annual energy and power, as well as financial viability, as determined by a techno-economic analysis conducted by students and evaluated by judges. The goal is to design, model, and present the most reliable, resilient, and cost-effective system possible.[7]

The Solar District Cup Class of 2021-2022 opened on May 12, 2021. More information can be found on the HeroX website.


The American-Made Solar Prize is a $3 million competition designed to revitalize solar manufacturing in the United States. Competitors may be entrepreneurial students, professors, small-business owners, company staffers, researchers at national laboratories, or anyone else based in the United States with a potentially marketable solar technology solution. This challenge requires competitors to make progress on a condensed timeline, form private-sector partnerships, and secure investments to make their ideas a reality.

Round 5 was launched on June 10, 2021 consisting of two tracks: a hardware track and a software track. The new software track solicits innovations that will address non-hardware aspects of solar like customer acquisition, financing, and grid integration.[8] Further information on the American-Made Solar Prize competition can be found here.


There are several incentives available for the installation of solar energy systems:

  • Various provisions in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) support investment in solar energy equipment. The 26% federal investment tax credit (ITC) is a tax credit for solar systems on residential and commercial properties. The 26% applies to projects that begin construction in 2021 or 2022. In 2023 the tax credit is 22% and after 2023, the residential credit is zero and the commercial credit is a permanent 10 percent. It is among the most important incentives currently available for solar PV.[9]
  • Many states, counties, municipalities and utilities offer rebates or other incentives for solar energy technologies. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) has a comprehensive list of solar incentives by state, as well as more information and maps showing solar policies across the U.S.
  • In addition, local rebates and incentives that might be available can be found using a handy tool provided by SEIA partner EnergySage.


Legislation to create incentives or Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) has passed or is pending in the majority of states. These standards are stimulating a market for both Photovoltaics (PV) and Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) energy. Additionally, several states have their own solar incentives in place.[10]

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) provides an overview of state solar policies which can be accessed via the following link: http://www.seia.org/policy/state-solar-policy

Updated by Erin Bennett, June 2022