7 projects looking to use big data to cut the cost of solar power

The Department of Energy is putting a collective $9 million into 7 projects being developed at universities and government labs that will us big data to lower the cost of solar in various ways. The projects, at places like Yale, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, will be focused on using analytics to lower the cost of solar installations and making solar cells more efficient.

Apple's massive solar farm in North Carolina, photo by WCNC-TV

Apple’s massive solar farm in North Carolina, photo by WCNC-TV

Here’s the 7 projects:

  • A solar financing model: NREL and solar financing startup Clean Power Finance will use $2.26 million to analyze data from 1,300 solar installation companies to try to create new types of community and regional financing methods.
  • A publication and patent reader: SRI International, the University of Toledo and GE (s GE) will use $600K to create software that can read and analyze science publications and patents to unearth innovations that can lower the cost of solar.
  • Articulate a solar theory: Gordan Moore had his own law for chips, and some in the solar sector talk about a Swanson’s Law for the dropping cost of solar, but folks at MIT will use close to $500K to study the tech evolution process of solar and to create an overarching theory.
  • Better forecasting of production costs: Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Arizona State University and the University of Oxford will use almost $950K to analyze data about patents, prices and production to create better forecasts of solar cell, wafer and panel prices.
  • A model for solar markets: Sandia National Labs, the University of Pennsylvania and the California Center for Sustainable Energy will use $2.3 million to process data about solar markets and to create a model looking at how economic and social issues impact solar installations.
  • Better strategies for community-led solar purchasing: Yale and SmartPower’s New England Solar Challenge will use $1.9 million to develop new strategies to that can make community solar buying programs work better.
  • More effective solar installation in Texas: The University of Austin will use close to $500K to collaborate with six Texas utilities to create more strategic ways to install and interconnect solar in the state.