As debates in Washington rage on about the appropriate use for government funds, speakers at this year’s World Renewable Energy Forum presented many examples of government and the private sector working together to foster innovation and expand markets. Government speakers and scientists from government funded organizations gave progress updates on initiatives related to solar market development.
During a session on Tuesday, Melinda Marquis discussed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations (NOAA)’s work with the private sector to improve the quality of weather forecasting models. The NOAA has a long history of collaborating with private sector players to collect data while keeping sensitive information private. Historically, this has been a common occurrence with the aviation industry. Related to the energy industry, in recent years NOAA has signed agreements with Xcel as well as one of the largest wind developers in the country to share data. There has also been interest from players in the solar industry. NOAA integrates this weather information from outside sources to help improve weather forecasts publicly available through the National Weather Service.
Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Dorothy Robyn spoke during the Tuesday morning plenary about the DoD’s activities related to energy. With 300,000 buildings, 2.2 billion sq ft, 160,000 fleet vehicles, 28 million acres of land containing 400 endangered species, the DoD has the potential to make a huge impact. As the largest energy user in the country, the DoD is responsible for 1% of all energy use.
Undersecretary Robyn described a variety of initiatives the DoD is working on to reduce it’s energy use as well as support the development and successful commercialization of emerging technologies. For example, the Army, Navy, and Airforce have commit to a combined 3 gigs of installed solar by 2025. The DoD is also launching new programs in microgrids and energy management systems. Most importantly perhaps, the Undersecretary described the DoD’s role as a test bed for new technologies and their philosophy of testing and evaluating different applications.
Solar market development has also received a boost in the past years thanks to the innovative work that was supported under the Solar America Communities program and also the more recent Sunshot Initiative.
The DOE SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national initiative to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. Reducing the installed cost of solar energy systems by about 75% will drive widespread, large-scale adoption of this renewable energy technology and restore U.S. leadership in the global clean energy race.
Government support for expanding renewable energy markets has and will continue to play a critical role in transitioning our country to a clean energy future.