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.

This challenge is closed


This challenge is closed


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.


Challenge Updates

Congratulations to the Solar Prize Round 5 Winners

Sept. 22, 2022, 8:30 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

After successful final pitches at the RE+ Conference on Sept. 20, five Solar Prize Round 5 teams took home top honors and cash awards for their innovative solar concepts. During the final Go! Contest, teams worked on developing and testing their product or prototype, building their network, and making a long-term plan for the success of their concept. 

The following Hardware Track winners were awarded $500,000 cash and $75,000 in vouchers to help the team bring their concept to fruition. 

Origami Solar, Bend, OR: This team is developing steel PV module frames leveraging U.S.-made and formed steel. Compared to current frames made from imported aluminum, these frames lower the carbon emissions associated with making the frames and reduce PV system costs, while supporting a U.S.-based supply chain.

TECSI Solar, El Sobrante, CA: This team is developing a residential solar module that simplifies the ordering and installation process by combining the racking, flashing, hardware, and power electronics into a single product. TECSI’s all-in-one solar module eliminates the aluminum frame, reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of the installation.

Software track winners, below, received $200,000 each, and $50,000 in vouchers. 

illu, Sunnyvale, CA: This team is building a mobile and desktop tool for operations and maintenance workflow management that will assist field technicians and simplify distributed solar maintenance.

SolarGrade, Carlsbad, CA: This team is building a management platform to improve inspection, operations, and maintenance of PV systems leveraging field technician inputs and data analytics.

In addition, Midday Tech from San Francisco, CA, was awarded $100,000 for their winning submission to the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Contest, which focuses on advancing solar in underserved communities. Midday Tech is building a platform to connect consumers who purchase voluntary carbon offsets with high-impact rooftop solar projects in underserved communities.

Congratulations to everyone who participated in Round 5 and contributed their innovative ideas for energizing solar innovation. The prize administrators are so proud of the work you’ve all accomplished throughout this competition and look forward to seeing your continued success.

Don’t forget, Round 6 is open and accepting submissions now through Oct. 6. We highly encourage Solar Prize newcomers and alumni to apply! 

Solar Prize Round 5 Winners to be Announced September 20 at RE+

Aug. 10, 2022, 7:30 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

The conclusion of Round 5 of the Solar Prize will take place Sept. 20 at RE+, the nation’s largest conference for renewable energy professionals. Conference attendees are invited to watch team pitches during the day, visit their booths in the conference Expo Hall, and hear the Solar Prize winner announcements that evening.

Learn more about ways to connect with the Solar Prize at RE+

During the competition’s final event, Go! Demo Day, Hardware Track finalist teams will present a short pitch on their technology to industry peers at 2-3:30 p.m. in the Grid Edge Theater. If you’re attending the conference, we invite you to come hear about all the innovative concepts these finalist teams have developed over the last year! Attendees can also learn more about each Hardware Track team’s concept at team booths located around the Expo Hall. 

The American-Made program will also host a booth on the show floor, and attendees are invited to learn more about the Solar Prize Round 6 and other American-Made Challenges from prize administrators from the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Select Solar Prize alumni from Rounds 2-4 will have booth spaces as well and will showcase the progress they’ve made since completing the competition.

On the evening of Sept. 20, the final winner of the Solar Prize Round 5 Hardware Track will be announced and awarded $500,000, plus $75,000 in vouchers to help the team bring their concept to fruition. The winner announcement will take place at the RE+ conference at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET. You can also watch the livestream of the winner announcement on the American-Made Challenges Twitter feed.

Stay tuned to find out who wins!

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!