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Solar Prize Round 5 Hardware Track

The Solar Prize Round 5 Hardware Track offers $3 million in cash prizes to competitors over three progressive contests.

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stage:
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prize:
$3,000,000

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Overview

Challenge Overview

Solar Prize Round 5

The American-Made Solar Prize is a prize competition designed to energize U.S. solar innovation through a series of contests and the development of a diverse and powerful support network that leverages national laboratories, energy incubators, and other resources across the country.

Rounds 1 through 4 of the Solar Prize focused on solar manufacturing and hardware components. The Solar Prize Round 5 is structured with two tracks that focus separately on hardware and software components to allow more entrepreneurs to compete in the solar innovation space.

Hardware Track

The fifth round of the Solar Prize is designed to spur more solar innovation than ever before by splitting participants into two separate technology-focused tracks. The Solar Prize Round 5 Hardware Track offers $3 million in cash prizes over three progressive contests to competitors who are developing physical solar innovations that energize U.S. manufacturing. 

Why a Hardware Track? 

The Solar Prize has always placed an emphasis on manufacturing solar innovation in the United States. After four successful rounds focusing primarily on tangible technologies, the prize administrators decided to split Round 5 into two tracks—the Hardware Track and the Software Track. Both follow the same prize structure but allow competitors to stay in different lanes to bring both hardware and software products closer to market. 

If your solar innovation focuses on a physical component, manufacturing process, or producible product, the Hardware Track is for you. Learn more by viewing the official rules.

The Solar Prize Contests

The Solar Prize encourages the rapid development of innovative solar energy solutions capable of addressing the tough challenges facing the solar industry. Solar Prize competitors participate in three contests—the Ready! Set! and Go! Contests to transform their ideas into concepts and then early-stage prototypes ready for industry testing. 

The Hardware Track offers $3 million in cash prizes, plus additional support vouchers and connections to national laboratories and industry resources. 

Guidelines

Challenge Guidelines

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

If you want to receive updates on the prize or have any questions, please subscribe by using the contact feature on the HeroX platform or message us directly at.

Timeline
Updates19

Challenge Updates

Congratulations to the 10 Hardware Track Finalist Teams!

April 22, 2022, 11:56 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Congratulations to the finalists moving on to the Go! Contest of the Solar Prize Round 5, announced today at the American-Made Earth Day Celebration. Ten Hardware Track teams were each awarded $100,000 in cash prizes and $75,000 in vouchers to advance their innovation from proof-of-concept to prototype in the final contest.   

Semifinalist teams showcased their concepts during the virtual Round 5 Set! Demo Day event, where they were asked to show progress in developing and demonstrating early-stage proofs-of-concept. A panel of industry experts reviewed the teams’ pitch videos and conducted a 10-minute question-and-answer session with each team to discuss their innovations in more detail before selecting the finalists.

Now, after months of diligent work from the teams and careful deliberation by the judges, the finalist teams have been announced:

  • Gismo Power (Sarasota, FL) – This team is developing a portable carport that has an integrated solar PV system and electric vehicle charger and can be stored in a garage during periods of harsh weather.  As a portable electric appliance, it can be taken with the owner when they move homes.
  • Leap Photovoltaics (San Francisco, CA) – This team is developing a silicon solar cell that uses silicon particles instead of traditional silicon wafers. These particle-based cells have the potential to be much lower in cost compared to incumbent technologies and can be manufactured with a U.S. supply chain. 
  • Mana Monitoring (Lahaina, HI) – This team is developing a plug-and-play energy management system that synchronizes on-site solar energy generation with electric vehicle charging. The goal is to charge electric vehicles from the locally produced solar power as much as possible and reduce the use of grid power during expensive peak hours.Origami Solar (Bend, OR) – This team is developing steel PV module frames manufactured using a roll-forming process. Compared to current frames made from aluminum, these frames can reduce PV system costs due to cheaper materials and higher manufacturing speeds.
  • Portable Solar (Miami, FL) – This team is developing an awning PV panel mounting system that can seamlessly integrate into the manufacturing process and distribution channels of the manufactured home industry. This could reduce the cost of residential solar for manufactured homes.
  • RCAM Technologies (Los Angeles, CA) – This team is developing 3D-printed concrete gravity anchors that are manufactured on-site for floating solar panel installations. This allows for the production of highly optimized anchor designs for each solar system.
  • Smartville (Carlsbad, CA) – This team is developing an energy storage system that combines recycled electric vehicle batteries with a novel power conversion system and state-of-the-art battery controls. These battery controls enable the system to use different makes and models of electric vehicle batteries and can extend their useful lifetime as compared to traditional battery controls.
  • Solar SCADA (Denver, CO) – This team is developing a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system that combines all the sensors, calibration, communication, and data feeds needed to operate a solar energy system into standalone, ready-to-use packages. The SCADA system is low cost and quick to install, targeting the commercial and industrial solar sector.
  • Sun Deck Solar (Roswell, GA) – This team is developing a solar-powered electric vehicle charging station that utilizes a self-assembling design to reduce installation costs.
  • TECSI Solar Inc. (El Sobrante, CA) – This team is developing a solar panel designed for residential use, which simplifies the ordering and installation process by combining the racking, flashing, hardware, and power electronics into a single product.

The finalists will present their technologies one last time at Go! Demo Day in September 2022. Ultimately, only two teams will win the final prize, each receiving an additional $500,000 cash prize and $75,000 support voucher to help them bring their technologies to market.

Congratulations to the finalist teams and all of the Solar Prize Round 5 competitors! 


Tomorrow: Hear the Solar Prize Set! Contest Finalist Announcement at the American-Made Earth Day Celebration

April 21, 2022, 9:30 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Tomorrow—find out which teams advance in the Solar Prize Round 5 at the American-Made Earth Day Celebration!

Solar Prize Round 5 Demo Day Q&A sessions are wrapping up and finalists are being selected! Tomorrow, we’ll find out which teams win cash prizes and move on to the Go! Contest as finalists. Hear the live virtual finalist announcement tomorrow, Friday, April 22, at 12 p.m. ET during the American-Made Earth Day Celebration! 

During this event, the American-Made team, along with key energy industry players, will highlight the role of innovation and entrepreneurship in a more sustainable, inclusive, and just energy future. 

In addition to the Solar Prize Round 5 finalist announcement, this virtual event will feature guest speakers, prize announcements, education sessions, networking opportunities, and more. In addition to the finalist announcement, the celebration will also include updates from many other prizes, guest speakers, networking sessions, and more. 

Even if you aren’t competing in the Solar Prize Round 5, you’re invited to join this event to network with industry peers and attend education sessions!

Register here for the American-Made Earth Day Celebration tomorrow, April 22 to find out which Hardware and Software Track teams advance as finalists. We hope to see you there! 


Winners of Solar Prize Round 5 Demo Days to be Announced at American-Made Earth Day Celebration

April 13, 2022, 7 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

You’re invited to the American-Made Earth Day Celebration on Friday, April 22, featuring the announcement of Solar Prize Round 5 finalists!

Solar Prize Round 5 Hardware and Software Track semifinalists are busy working on their Set! Contest presentations for next week’s Demo Day events. Teams already submitted their entries and are preparing to meet with a panel of expert reviewers in closed-door Q&A sessions. Finally, reviewers will deliberate and select finalists in each track.

The exciting finalist announcement will take place at the first-ever American-Made Earth Day Celebration on April 22 at 12 p.m. ET! Join the virtual event to hear the news, along with other prize announcements, and stick around for guest speakers, educational sessions, and networking opportunities.

Register now to secure your spot to hear the Solar Prize Round 5 finalist announcement and be part of the Earth Day Celebration!


Solar Prize Round 5 Demo Day and Finalist Announcement Coming Up

April 7, 2022, 11:47 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Find out which teams advance as Solar Prize Round 5 finalists on Friday, April 22! 

The Solar Prize Round 5 Set! Demo Day is coming up for Hardware and Software Track semifinalists. Demo Day kicks off on Tuesday, April 19, with the Software Track semifinalists meeting with a panel of expert reviewers for a closed-door Q&A session. Then, Hardware Track semifinalists will do the same on Thursday, April 21

After the Q&A sessions and reviewer deliberations are complete, the finalist teams will be announced at the American-Made Earth Day Celebration on Friday, April 22, at 12 p.m. ET. During this event, the American-Made team, along with key energy industry players, will highlight the role of innovation and entrepreneurship in a more sustainable, inclusive, and just energy future. 

In addition to the Solar Prize Round 5 finalist announcement, this virtual event will feature guest speakers, prize announcements, education sessions, networking opportunities, and more. In addition to the finalist announcement, the celebration will also include updates from many other prizes, guest speakers, networking sessions, and more. 

Register here for the American-Made Earth Day Celebration on April 22 to find out which Hardware and Software Track teams advance as finalists.

 We hope to see you there! 


Join Us Tomorrow for the Solar Prize Pitch Showcase & Virtual Networking Mixer

March 24, 2022, 11:45 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Tomorrow, March 25, is the day to tune in to the Solar Prize Round 5 Set! Hardware Track Pitch Showcase, part of CMU Energy Week, hosted by Carnegie Mellon University’s Scott Institute. The showcase features presentations from Hardware Track semifinalists who will use the event to practice their pitches, share their solutions with fellow semifinalists, and receive feedback from an industry advisory panel ahead of the Set! Demo Day, where the finalists will be selected.

The general public and Software Track competitors are invited to attend the Hardware Track Pitch Showcase on March 25.

Then, join the CMU Energy Week Virtual Networking Mixer at 3:30 p.m. ET. The mixer is open to anyone looking to forge connections with top innovators, organizations, students, and entrepreneurs in the energy industry.

Register for the Solar Prize Set! Pitch Showcase and the Virtual Networking Mixer. We hope to see you there! 


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FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, but it’s quick and easy. Just click the “Solve this Challenge” button on this page and follow the instructions to complete your registration. All you need to provide is your name and email address.

If you have a question not answered in the FAQ, we recommend that you post it in the Forum where someone will respond to you. This way, others who may have the same question will be able to see it.

Yes, however, the intent of the voucher funding is to encourage the development of new and productive relationships. If you win a Set! or a Go! Prize then you will not be able to use your voucher funding at your current organization. i.e. National lab researchers would need to utilize their voucher at a Lab that is not where they are, or recently  (4 months or less) were, employed.

No, if you are a contest winner you are receiving the prize for meeting or exceeding the contest goals. 

 Yes, the intent of voucher funding is to encourage the development of new and productive relationships.

It is up to the Competitor to identify a suitable partner to pilot test for their proposed solution. Judges will then assess the quality and feasibility of what is submitted.

The Ready! Contest Submission Template is under the resources tab.

But, to save you the trouble of navigating there, here is another direct link:

Ready! Contest Submission Template

Innovation is about making ideas happen. The American-Made Network will accelerate and sustain solar innovation through a diverse and powerful network that includes national laboratories, energy incubators, facilities, and other valuable industry partners from across the U.S. who will engage, connect, mentor, and boost the efforts of Solar Prize competitors.

See who is in the network.

Connectors are the core component of the American-Made Network and are organizations that seek to support the efforts of competitors in the Solar Prize. Use this link to explore the Network to find potential partners and develop relationships.

https://americanmadechallenges.org/network

Power Connector organizations are a core group of Connectors that will work alongside NREL to implement parts of the program and secure additional resources and partners.

Discover who they are and how they will help innovators succeed.

https://americanmadechallenges.org/power_connectors

If you encounter an issue when attempting to submit an entry to the challenge, you may need to contact HeroX or the Prize Administrator.

You may try to connect with HeroX using the online form which appears in the bottom right corner of your browser window, it says Leave a Message.

You may also send a message to the Prize Administrator inbox at  .

Please allow at least 1 business day for a response.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is the Prize Administrator for the American-Made Challenges. In this capacity NREL works closely with the U.S. Department of Energy to administer the challenges, maintain the website platform, assist in building the network, and pay prize money to the winning teams.

Tags and labels are a requirement in the submission form.  A series of checkbox options will present options for properly tagging or labeling your entry.

There are 3 primary keyword tags: Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), Grid Integration & Modeling, and Photovoltaics (PV).

Each of the primary keyword tags have a subset of tags related to that topic.  These options will be presented during the submission process in the submission form.  

All of your files are uploaded as part of the submission form, access this by clicking the Begin Entry button.  The submission form contains an upload option for each of the required file entries.  Only PDF files will be accepted for upload.

Make your own public-facing one-slide submission summary that contains technically specific details but can be understood by most people. There is no template so feel free to present the information as you see fit. Please make any text readable in a standard printout and conference room projection.

The summary slide must be uploaded as a PDF document.  Please be sure that you export or save your slide as a PDF prior to uploading.

Yes!  There are no restrictions for competitors who submitted in Round 1 thru 4,  your great idea is still eligible for Round 5.

Round 5 requires you to create an account in our new Network Matchmaking Tool. Make sure you are signing up as an “Innovator” and provide information about what your needs are related to your innovation. You can also connect directly with our American-Made Network (our connectors) who are willing and able to help you with your submission! Once you sign-in, you will be able to complete your Technical Assistance Request (TAR) form. This is a necessary step for your submission and separate from the HeroX platform. Please make sure that you log-in early and get connected here:  Network Matchmaking Tool.

Here is the eligibility guidance from the Solar Prize Round 5 Hardware Track Official Rules, Section I.6: 
“Individuals, teams of individuals, private entities (for-profits and nonprofits), and nonfederal government entities (such as states, counties, tribes, municipalities, and academic institutions) are eligible to compete in the Ready! Contest.” 

“Individuals, private entities (for-profits and nonprofits), and nonfederal government entities (such as states, counties, tribes, municipalities, and academic institutions) are subject to the following requirements: 
• An individual prize competitor (who is not competing as a member of a group) must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. 
o A group of individuals competing as one team may win, provided that the online account holder of the submission is a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. Individuals competing as part of a team may participate if they are legally authorized to work in the United States.” 

For in the Ready! submission, please see the Solar Prize Round 5 Hardware Track Official Rules, Section II.6, under “Plan” of the Narrative:
“Provide a high-level budget and plan to meet your goals between the conclusion of the Ready! Contest and the Go! Demo Day, including how you will leverage program resources, members of the American-Made Network, or other entities (include references to letters of support/commitment if applicable).”