The Department of Energy has started a podcast called “Direct Current”–telling stories of how the DOE generates and uses electricity, and what that means for the planet. The first episode discusses solar panels and the associated costs.

Solar panels absorb energy from the sun and turn it into usable electricity. They do not give off pollution, and they drive down the costs of electricity bills. However, there are other “soft” costs associated with solar panels–from getting permits, to having the panels installed, to getting them connected–that folks may not be aware of.

“I think when people talk about soft costs, what they don’t realize is even if your solar equipment was entirely free–if someone just came in and gave you a bunch of solar panels and all the equipment you needed, you would still need to pay thousands of dollars to get solar installed,” Elaine Ulrich, DOE’s program manager for the SunShot team, said in the podcast.

Launched in 2011, the SunShot Initiative seeks to make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of electricity by 2020. The goal of the initiative is to reduce the price of solar electricity to $.06 per kilowatt-hour. Currently, the initiative is more than 70% on the way to achieving this goal.

“Really what we’re trying to drive at here is to make it faster, cheaper, and easier for people to go solar.  You want it to be accessible to as many people as possible,” Ulrich said.

Solar energy is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States–currently, there are more than 1 million solar installations operating across the country.

“Solar energy is an integral part of our nation’s ongoing energy revolution,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. “The U.S. has over 10 times more solar installed today compared to 2011 when the SunShot Initiative was first launched, and the overall costs of solar have dropped by 65 percent. The administration’s continued efforts through the SunShot Initiative will help to further reduce costs to make solar energy more accessible and affordable for American families and businesses.”

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