American-Made Challenges


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.
Solar Prize R5 Informational Webinar

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. 


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.

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Challenge Updates

Intellectual Property Protection Fundamentals for Tech Startups and Entrepreneurs

Sept. 13, 2021, 8:44 a.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

Find out how you can protect your startup’s intellectual property (IP) at this webinar on Sept. 16, brought to you by Power Connector ADL Ventures. Register here

As a budding small business owner or a serial entrepreneur, one of the most valuable pieces of property your business will own is its IP. Protecting your name, brand identity, or design may potentially have significant effects on your success. 

Join Power Connector ADL Ventures on Thursday, Sept. 16, at 1 p.m. ET for a webinar focused on IP protection fundamentals for tech startups and entrepreneurs. ADL Ventures will be joined by guest speakers from smart grid solution startup PACE, cellulose-based material developer InventWood, and legal experts from national law firm Babst Calland

Tune in to learn how to protect your IP as a startup or research team, especially as you get ready to compete in the Solar Prize Round 5. Register for the webinar here

Find Support with the Network Matching Tool

Sept. 3, 2021, 7:15 a.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

Need help with your Solar Prize Round 5 submission? Use the American-Made Network Matching Tool to find the support and resources you need to succeed.

The hardest part of innovating can often be finding the right tools and expertise to move your technology to the next stage. That’s why the American-Made Challenges developed the Network Matching Tool, which fast-tracks the process by connecting innovators with companies that provide the specific knowledge, skills, and equipment needed to successfully compete in the prizes. 

This online tool allows you to specify your technology needs and get matched with organizations that have the expertise you need exactly when you need it.

Solar Prize Round 1 winner Bill Nussey got connected with NREL early to learn about the lab's solar panel testing capabilities.

The Network Matching Tool is available to Solar Prize Round 5 competitors across all technology areas. Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Create an account.
  2. Build your profile with details about the areas in which you need help.
  3. Get matched with Connectors who have the capabilities you need and start working with them.

Don’t wait until Connectors are fully booked to fill out your profile! See how it works and start getting connected with national laboratories, test facilities, business development mentors, and more by building your Network Matching Tool profile today.

Looking for Next Steps to Get Your Idea and Submission Going for the Solar Prize Round 5?

Aug. 25, 2021, 11:28 a.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

We have several opportunities for you to learn more about how to apply for the Solar Prize and connect with Connectors, who are there to help you be successful with your submission:

Network Matching Tool – The Network Matching Tool was created to quickly connect you with the supporters and resources you need to take your Solar Prize Round 5 idea to the next level. No matter how far along your hardware technology is, you can find the exact connections you need through the Network Matching Tool. All you need to do to get started is build your profile and let us know what you need help with. Start finding matches today with the Network Matching Tool.

Solar Prize Informational Webinar – If you missed the Solar Prize Round 5 Informational Webinar, catch up on everything you missed by watching the webinar recording. Learn about what elements are needed for your submission package and where you can get help putting your submission together. Watch the recording here.

HeroX Forum – The HeroX forum is a great place to post your questions, find answers to other questions, and meet other experts who could join your team. There are already a handful of questions and answers posted on the Hardware Track forum about competing in Round 5. Head over to the forum to post today.

Don’t forget to submit your innovation by Oct. 5!

How to Apply to the Solar Prize Round 5

Aug. 6, 2021, 9:43 a.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

Applying to the Solar Prize Round 5 Hardware Track? Follow these five steps to make sure you successfully apply for the chance to win part of $3 million.

We know applying to the Solar Prize can be nerve-wracking. Do you have everything you need? Is your video compelling? Did you read the rules thoroughly? 

That’s why we’re breaking it down to a few simple steps. Here’s how you can apply to the Solar Prize Round 5: 

  1. Figure out which track is right for you—Round 5 has two separate tracks that focus on different technology areas: Hardware and Software. Decide which category your innovation falls under.
  2. Sign up on HeroX—once you know which track is right for you, make sure you create a HeroX account and follow the Hardware and/or Software Track to receive updates and prepare your submission.
  3. Utilize the Network Matching Tool—find resources who can support your innovation by providing submission reviews and connecting you to the tools you need to advance. Hurry—make connections now before Connectors are fully booked!
  4. Compile your submission—make sure you have all your submission elements, including a cover page, answers to four questions, a 90-second video, technical assistance request, and PowerPoint summary slide.
  5. Upload your submission by Oct. 5—get your submission in as soon as possible!

Don’t forget to review the rules for further details on each step. Submissions are due Oct. 5, though we highly recommend getting your application in sooner. 

We can’t wait to see your creative solar hardware solutions when you apply to Round 5.

Watch the Solar Prize Round 5 Informational Webinar Recording

July 14, 2021, 7:10 a.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

If you missed the Solar Prize Round 5 Informational Webinar, you can now stream the recording or view the presentation slides.

During this presentation, the Solar Prize administrators reviewed competition goals, eligibility requirements for both the Hardware and Software Tracks, important dates, how to find support from the American-Made Network, and more. 

Check out the recording below to hear what was discussed and what you need to submit by Oct. 5. 

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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.

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.

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.