American-Made Challenges

Solar Desalination

Solar Desalination

Expand the utilization of non-traditional sources of water, ensure water security in the U.S. and improve the resilience of infrastructure.
$1 million grand prize and other awards (TBD)

Challenge Overview

Solar Desalination Prize

The Solar Desalination Prize is a four-phase prize competition that will advance thermal desalination technologies to expand the utilization of non-traditional water sources, ensure water security, and improve the resilience of U.S. infrastructure.


Graphic of the American-Made Challenges framework; Make a plan, design a proof of concept, develop prototype and identify pilot partner.


The Opportunity

Removing salt from water takes a lot of energy! Many of the largest untapped water resources in the US and around the world cannot be cost-effectively used because of high concentrations of dissolved salts.

Water treatment processes, like reverse osmosis, are efficient when salt concentrations are low, but can’t treat high-salt waters like those that are produced from oil and gas wells, concentrated brines, and some industrial and agricultural wastewaters.

Novel thermal desalination technologies can purify water with very high salt content without dramatically increasing the amount of energy required. By using solar thermal as the energy source, desalination technologies could be used in a variety of important environments, especially in arid areas with high sun exposure, where water purification is especially important.


The Prize Structure

The Solar Desalination Prize has a rapid iteration prize structure designed to help entrepreneurs use innovative research to come up with ideas, then design and test concepts, with the end goal of having shovel-ready technology primed for industry adoption.

Millions of dollars in prizes will be awarded over the competition, increasing in value in each phase, culminating in a $1 million grand prize at the end of the competition for successful testing and demonstration of promising solar desalination prototypes.


Updates 3

Challenge Updates

Solar Desal Technical Webinar on HeroX

June 1, 2020, 1:28 p.m. PDT by NREL Challenge
We’re hosting another live webinar on June 18 at 1:30 p.m. ET. Whether you missed the first webinar, or just want more information on technical specs, don’t forget to register at: We’ll also post a link here and share it on Twitter @AMC afterwards.

Webinar - Tuesday, May 12

May 11, 2020, 10:56 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

The Solar Desalination Prize is open for submissions. On Tuesday, May 12 at 1:00 PM Eastern Time an informational webinar on the Solar Desalination Prize and how to apply was held. A link to the recording is available here Solar Desal kickoff webinar

Solar Desalination Prize not yet open

March 31, 2020, 8:19 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge
You may have received a notification that the American-Made Solar Desalination Prize was open for submissions. That notification was sent in error. The American-Made Solar Desalination Prize is not yet open for submissions, but we hope to open the prize soon. Keep checking back for regular updates. We look forward to your submissions in the future.

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