U.S. government moves forward with cheap solar tech contest

In June of this year, the Department of Energy (DoE) announced the guidelines for and initiation of the "America's Most Affordable Rooftop Solar" contest, which sought low-cost designs from American entrepreneurs that could bring cost-effective renewable energy to homeowners. This effort is part of the DoE's SunShot Initiative, a larger program devoted the development of cheap alternatives to otherwise expensive technology.

"Through the SunShot Initiative, we're tackling the technological, scientific and market barriers facing America's solar industry to make sure solar power continues to play an important role in our diverse energy mix," DoE Secretary Steven Chu said at the time in a press release.

Since then, the program has evolved somewhat. Now known as the "Race to the Rooftop", the program offers a $10 million prize to the award-winning design team. DoE officials also strengthened the requirements for the program. Originally, participants were expected to build 5,000 photovoltaic solar power systems that could generate up to 15 kilowatts of power at a cost of roughly $2 per watt. The new parameters dictate that developers need to bring that price down to about $1 per watt. According to green news source EarthTechling, solar power installation currently costs approximately $5 per watt in a residential setting.

Groups that wish to participate in the contest can log onto the DoE website and investigate the guidelines and rules. The first step involves submitting a deployment plan for review by government officials. Feedback is issued to selected teams, after which these participants begin building solar power systems. The organization that completes their quota first will be subject to review and, if successful, will receive the prize.

The "Race to the Rooftop" does not have a set deadline, but solar panel designers are already at work trying to reach the goal of bringing renewable energy to homes across the country.

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