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.
$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 5

Challenge Updates

Recording of Innovation Kickoff Webinar

June 7, 2021, 9:45 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Hello Teams,

We hope you are all making good progress on your Innovation submissions! Below, you will find the link to a recording of the Kickoff webinar last month if you would like to review any of the material covered. We are looking forward to seeing all of your submissions by July 15th.

Good luck!

Final Reminder: Join us for the Innovation Contest Kickoff Webinar tomorrow!

May 3, 2021, 12:53 p.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Hi Teams,

This is the final reminder to register for the Innovation Contest Kickoff Webinar for the second round of Solar Desalination Prize tomorrow at 2pm ET. Register here: 

We look forward to seeing you then!

Register for the Round 2 Innovation Contest Webinar on May 4

April 30, 2021, 8:42 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

We're less than a week away from the Solar Desalination Prize Round 2 Informational Webinar on May 4 at 2 p.m. ET. Learn about the Innovation Contest in time to submit your idea by the July 15 deadline.  For those who are unable to attend, a recording will be posted and shared here later. Register here: and don’t forget to read the contest rules.

Solar Desalination Round 1 Semifinalists announced

April 12, 2021, 10:50 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Congratulations to the eight teams selected as semi-finalists in the Teaming Contest of the Solar Desalination Prize Round 1:

  • BrineZero
  • Connecticut Center for Applied Separations Technology
  • Espiku
  • GreenBlu
  • Katz Water Technologies
  • Solar Desalt
  • The HIT Team

The semifinalists will receive $250,000 in cash and $100,000 in support vouchers and advance to the Design Contest of the competition, where they will complete a detailed, ready-to-build design of their solar-thermal desalination facility prototype for a chance to win $750,000 in cash and $100,000 in vouchers.

Follow their progress on the Round 1 Solar Desalination HeroX page.

Energy Department Announces New Round of Solar Desalination Prize Competition

April 12, 2021, 10:40 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Welcome to the Solar Desalination Prize Round 2, launched April 12, 2021, by the Department of Energy, Solar Energy Technologies Office. 

Round 2 is currently accepting submissions for the Innovation Contest. Competitors have until July 15 to submit their ideas. Make sure to read the Contest Rules.

Register for the Round 2 Informational Webinar on May 4:

Looking for updates on Round 1? Follow the Round 1 contests and teams

Forum 3
Teams 1.2K