Seeking a successful 'sunshot' to slim down solar costs

Does it feel like the United States is in a race to the sun as it was back in the '60s when we sought to put a man on the moon?

Arun Majumdar, Acting Under Secretary for Energy for the U.S. Department of Energy, said it should. The nation that figures out how to lower the cost of solar energy from the current $3.50 to $4 per watt for installed utility use to $1 will win that race and create a huge business, he said.

"There is a small window of opportunity," he said. "We need to grab it, or some other country will."

The Department of Energy's 4th annual Solar America Cities Meeting kicked off with a keynote address by Majumdar at the Hyatt Regency Philadelphia Tuesday morning.

The agency first unveiled its SunShot Initiative last August, adopting a phrase that recalls the "moon shot" speech of President Kennedy in 1962. Affordable solar energy is the "moon shot of our generation," Majumdar said.

Philadelphia was designated one of 25 Solar America Cities by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2008, enabling it to receive $200,000 and technical assistance from the federal agency. The goal of the program is to lower the barriers to solar energy technologies at the local level.