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.

This challenge is closed

Teaming Contest open
$1 million grand prize and other awards (TBD)

This challenge is closed


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 13

Challenge Updates

The Quarterfinalists have been Announced! Next up—the Teaming Contest

Oct. 13, 2021, 12:57 p.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Register for the Solar Desalination Prize Round 2’s Teaming Event, happening from 12 to 2:30 p.m. ET on Oct. 28 via the virtual conference platform REMO. Meet representatives from the 12 quarterfinalist teams as they present their winning concepts, network with other teams, businesses and individuals looking to support them as they compete for the Teaming Contest.

The Teaming Event will include keynote guest speaker Gavin van Tonder, water sector head of NEOM, and the International Desalination Association.
Register here:  

Quarterfinalists Announced in Round 2 of the Solar Desalination Prize

Sept. 28, 2021, 12:44 p.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Congratulations to the quarterfinalists announced today in Round 2 of the Solar Desalination Prize. Twelve innovative submissions were selected. The winning teams will receive $50k in cash prizes and advance to the Teaming Contest. Learn more about the winners and stay tuned for details on how you can support the teams!  

Stage 1 Winners Announcement

Sept. 17, 2021, 6:56 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Hello Solar Desalination competitors,

Our apologies for missing the winner announcement date yesterday. We are still finalizing the list of winning submissions, and are working hard to make the announcement as soon as we can.

The official winner announcement will be posted here on HeroX.

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.

Forum 15
Teams 1.3K