American-Made Challenges


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 7

Challenge Updates

Thanks for your interest and check out these other prizes!

July 24, 2020, 8:56 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

We’re excited to have had more than 160 submissions for the first phase of the Solar Desalination Prize. While our judges are busy reviewing the entries, please check out these other prizes that are currently accepting submissions. Solar Prize Round 4 – Geothermal Prize -

Submission Deadline July 16th

July 13, 2020, 11:36 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

The Solar Desalination submission deadline is THIS THURSDAY! Submissions must be received by July 16 at 3 p.m. ET. There will be no exceptions, so please don’t wait until the last minute to submit.

Solar Desal Prize Submissions

July 2, 2020, 4:10 p.m. PDT by NREL Challenge


Less than two weeks to go before the submission deadline for the Solar Desalination Prize! Our FAQs have been updated with answers to questions asked at the June 18 Technical Specifications Webinar. If you happened to miss it, view it online here - Good Luck!

Technical Specifications Webinar

June 15, 2020, 6:33 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge
Still have questions about the Solar Desalination Prize? Register to attend the Technical Specifications Webinar on June 18 at 1:30 p.m. ET. A recording of the webinar and any questions posted in the chat will be answered on HeroX afterwards. Register to attend at The May 12 webinar can be viewed at

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.

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