American-Made Challenges


Solar Desalination Round 2

Develop systems that use low-cost solar-thermal energy to help clean water produced by oil & gas extraction & other industrial activities.
Teaming Contest open
$1 million grand prize and other awards (TBD)

Challenge Overview

Solar Desalination Prize

The Solar Desalination Prize is a competition designed to accelerate the development of systems that use low-cost solar-thermal energy to produce clean water from very-high-salinity water, like water produced from oil and gas extraction. The clean water produced can be used in municipal, agricultural, and industrial applications.



The Opportunity

According to Environment Protection Agency, the oil and gas industry produces several hundred billion gallons of wastewater annually.  This water can have a salt content that is too high for commercially available desalination technologies. Solar thermal desalination can the solution to treating this water, even in remote locations.

The technologies used in solar desalination can also be used in industrial applications like food processing, chemical production, and mineral processing. Solar desalination systems and many industrial applications like food processing do not require high temperatures, so they utilize lower-cost components than other electricity-producing applications.


The Prize Structure

The prize is structured in four phases. Each successive phase is more challenging than the last, with larger prizes and fewer competitors advancing. The challenge requires competitors to make progress on a condensed timeline, form private-sector partnerships, and secure investments to make their ideas a reality. 

By the end of the competition, the teams will have designed their solar-thermal desalination system, obtained the necessary permitting and approval documents, built it, and then demonstrated the operation of their system. The Department of Energy will determine the winner and award a final prize of $1 million in cash. 




Challenge Guidelines

Who can participate?

Entrepreneurs, technologists, hardware developers, engineers, solar experts, and investors are all encouraged to join the challenge, be part of the American-Made Network and create ground-breaking solutions that will accelerate solar desalination technologies.

Please review the official rules for the application process and instructions for competing.

Updates 10

Challenge Updates

Submission Deadline Tomorrow - July 15th

July 14, 2021, 10:44 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Remember, your submission deadline for the Solar Desalination Prize Innovation Contest is 3:00 PM Eastern Time tomorrow, Thursday, July 15th. We recommend submitting early to avoid last-minute technical difficulties.

We look forward to seeing your submissions and ideas.


Reminder - Submission Deadline - July 15th

July 9, 2021, 8:30 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Solar Desalination Prize Competitors,

Remember, the deadline to submit to the Innovation Contest is this coming Thursday, July 15th at 3:00 pm ET. We highly recommend submitting your application early to avoid any last minute technical difficulties.

Check out the Resources tab for the Official Rules and Submission Template.

We look forward to seeing your ideas.

Diving into Water Security & Desalination Webinar

July 1, 2021, 2:35 p.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Amid a worsening drought across much of the Western U.S., technological solutions to addressing water security are increasingly important. Join Power Connector Clean Energy Business Network for a webinar to learn about water issues and a discussion around the Solar Desal prize.

Friday, July 9

2:00 - 3:00 pm ET

Register here for the webinar.

Solar Desal Prize - Open to NEW Applicants

June 23, 2021, 7:58 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Hi Solar Desalination Prize Competitors,

We have gotten a couple of questions about eligibility to compete in Round 2 of the Solar Desalination Prize. To clarify - the Round 2 Innovation Contest is open to everyone who meets the eligibility criteria in the rules. You DO NOT have to have won Round 1 to apply or participate. If you applied to Round 1 and were not selected, you are able to apply again to Round 2 by July 15th.

If you need help with your submission or want to talk through your idea, Clean Energy Business Network is available to help. Feel free to reach out to if you have any questions about your application before you submit.

We look forward to seeing your solar desalination concepts.

Reminder - Submission Deadline - July 15

June 21, 2021, 9:10 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Hi Competitors,

Just a reminder that submissions for the Innovation Phase of the Solar Desalination Prize are due in just over three weeks on July 15th. Make sure you're working on your submission for your chance to win a $50,000 cash prize and to advance to the next phase of the competition.

As you're preparing your submission, be sure to check out some helpful resources:

Official Rules

Submission Template

Overview Webinar

If you have any questions or want to connect with other competitors, post in the HeroX Forum.

We look forward to seeing your submissions and supporting you in these final weeks before the submission deadline.




Forum 15
Teams 1.3K