American-Made Challenges

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Solar Prize Round 5 Software Track

Solar Prize Round 5 Software Track offers $1.6 million in cash prizes over three contests.

This challenge is closed

stage:
R5 Software Track Set Contest Opens
prize:
$1,600,000

This challenge is closed

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.

Software 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 Software Track offers $1.6 million in cash prizes over three progressive contests to competitors who are accelerating the development, validation, and commercialization of innovative solar software solutions that increase the competitiveness of the U.S. solar industry.

Why a Software 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 communications, computation, or information technology that allows industry to rethink how today’s solar energy problems are solved, the Software Track is for you.

A Focus on Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

The Software Track also offers participants the option to compete for a Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Trophy, which offers additional prizes for technologies that consider and incorporate environmental justice principles. This optional element asks competitors to develop solutions that enable underserved communities to overcome systemic barriers to solar deployment, with an additional $300,000 in cash prizes available to those who successfully complete this challenge. 

Learn more about the JEDI Trophy in the official Software Track 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 Software Track offers $1.6 million in cash prizes, plus additional support vouchers, the JEDI Trophy, 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
Updates 16

Challenge Updates

Prize Opportunity: The Solar Forecasting Prize

Jan. 4, 2022, 8:35 a.m. PST by Jackie Petre

New prize opportunity—The Solar Forecasting Prize awards $375,000 in cash prizes to competitors. Registration is due Jan. 12 at 5 p.m. ET. 

Since you expressed interest in the Solar Prize Software Track, the prize administrators wanted to inform you of another solar-focused prize that requires strong software skills: The American-Made Solar Forecasting Prize. 

The Solar Forecasting Prize is designed to better enable solar industry stakeholders with state-of-the-art solar forecasting capabilities. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, this prize aims to increase the use of the Solar Forecast Arbiter, an open platform developed by the University of Arizona, to allow for the transparent, rigorous, and consistent analysis and evaluation of solar forecasts.

The Solar Forecasting Prize strives to:

  • Increase stakeholder awareness of the state of the art in solar forecasting.
  • Incentivize the participation of a broad range of competitors from the solar forecasting industry and research and development space.
  • Grow industry knowledge of the Solar Forecast Arbiter (SFA) platform and its potential.
  • Promote the adoption of uniform and transparent metrics and specifications for solar forecasts using SFA (or similar platforms) by forecast end-users.
  • Identify algorithms that perform better than a baseline probabilistic forecast.

Up to five teams will win $50,000 each in cash prizes for showcasing the best performing algorithm and the strongest commercialization plan. Five runner-up teams will also have the chance to earn $25,000 in cash prizes. 

Interested in competing? All you have to do by the Jan. 12 deadline is register your team on HeroX. This prize does not require any submission elements to be completed by the registration deadline. Don’t miss this opportunity to compete in the Solar Forecasting Prize and earn up to $50,000! Register your team now.


Solar Prize Round 5 Software Track Ready! Contest Semifinalists Announced!

Dec. 7, 2021, 11:22 a.m. PST by Jackie Petre

We’re excited that 20 teams have been selected and announced as Solar Prize Round 5 Software Track Ready! Contest semifinalists by the U.S. Department of Energy. Each of these teams won a $30,000 cash prize and are now eligible to advance to the Set! Contest. Additionally, eight teams received a prize for winning the optional Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Contest.

The Software Track semifinalist technologies includes innovations in five subject areas: finance and business models, systems operations, system design, other analytical tools, and workforce development. Here are the Round 5 Software Track semifinalists:

Finance and Business Models

  • Accelerating Capital into U.S. Commercial Solar (Pasadena, CA) – JEDI Contest winner
  • Facilitating Donations of Second-Life Solar Panels (Sheridan, WY) – JEDI Contest winner
  • Solar as a Tool for Building Community Wealth (Oakland, CA) – JEDI Contest winner
  • Solar Stewards Marketplace (Atlanta, GA) – JEDI Contest winner
  • The Solar Equity Platform (Boston, MA) – JEDI Contest winner
  • Voluntary Carbon Offsets for Rooftop Solar (San Francisco, CA) – JEDI Contest winner

System Operations

  • Democratizing Photovoltaic Monitoring at Community Scale (Atlanta, GA)
  • illu - Illuminating Operations and Maintenance for Distributed Solar (Sunnyvale, CA)
  • Merging the Real and Digital Worlds Through a Cyber-Physical-Social Platform for Microgrids (Buffalo, NY) – JEDI Contest winner
  • Solar Nowcasting With Machine Learning (Honolulu, HI)
  • Solarcast and Solarcheck (SC2) (San Antonio, TX)
  • SolarGrade: Enabling Superpowers for On-Site Teams (Carlsbad, CA)

System Design

  • Sandbox Agrivoltaics: Design and Artificial Intelligence for Agriculture + Photovoltaic Design (Fort Collins, CO)
  • Solar River: Covering and Powering Canals with Solar (Bisbee, AZ)
  • SolarSpace: Siting and Construction Optimization (Albuquerque, NM)

Other Analytical Tools

  • Artificial Intelligence Power Management and Sizing Software Packages (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Building a Climate Sustainable Solar Energy Future (Fremont, CA)
  • Photovoltaic Module Health Check Using Electroluminescence and Artificial Intelligence (Orlando, FL)
  • SolarSpace E-Management Platform (Tucson, AZ)

Workforce Development

  • ECademy: Online School To Train Solar Installers (Baltimore, MD) – JEDI Contest winner

Learn more about each submission by checking out the HeroX Community tab and view the Hardware Track semifinalists, too.

There were numerous, impressive submissions to the Ready! Contest. In fact, we received more than 175 submissions from across the country between both Round 5 tracks. Many of these were great ideas but needed additional development and refinement to advance to the next level. 

If you submitted an idea and were not chosen as a semifinalist, we encourage you to keep innovating and looking for opportunities to improve your idea. In the coming weeks, you will receive an e-mail from the prize administrator with comments and feedback on your submission from the judges who reviewed it.

Additional Funding Opportunities

We also suggest applying to U.S. Department of Energy’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) funding program. Through SBIR/STTR, small businesses can receive up to $200,000 to engage in high-risk, innovative research and development with the potential for commercialization. Learn more about the current funding opportunities and how to submit a letter of intent by Jan. 3, 2022.

Several Power Connectors are providing resources and education to help you successfully apply for SBIR/STTR. Learn more and find support by attending one of these upcoming events or reaching out to one of the supporting Power Connectors

Thank You for Your Participation

We want to thank all teams for competing in the Solar Prize Round 5 Ready! Contest and hope you continue to be an active member of the Solar Prize community. Please continue to utilize the American-Made Network to improve your ideas and watch for other opportunities to make them a reality by signing up for our American-Made Challenges Newsletter

Should you have questions, please feel free to reach out at . Congratulations, again, to the Round 5 semifinalists!


Round 5 Ready! Contest Now Closed

Oct. 7, 2021, 7:35 a.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

Thank you to everyone who submitted an entry to the Solar Prize Round 5 Software Track’s Ready! Contest. Round 5 is now closed to submissions. We received many entries and are excited to see all the creative ideas out there! 

We hope to announce Round 5 semifinalists in December—stay tuned for the latest updates here. In the meantime, we encourage you to look for other prize opportunities, like the Solar Forecasting Prize, which is coming soon. 

Good luck!


Today: Solar Prize Round 5 Submissions Due by 5 p.m. ET!

Oct. 5, 2021, 7 a.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

Today is the deadline to submit your innovation to the Solar Prize Round 5. Make sure your full submission is uploaded no later than 5 p.m. ET!

As a reminder, here’s what you need to submit to the Software Track: 

  • 90-second video (public)
  • Cover page content
  • Narrative that answers four questions about the problem, solution, team, and plan (including optional responses to questions for JEDI Contest consideration)
    • Not to exceed 2,500 words unless responding to the JEDI Contest questions, which allows for an additional 500 words.
  • One summary PowerPoint slide (public)
  • Technical assistance request (public)
  • Letters of commitment or support (optional).

As a reminder, Round 5 requires you to create an account in our new Network Matchmaking Tool. Make sure you review the rules carefully and use the submission template to complete your entry. Submissions must be in by 5 p.m. ET today, though we highly recommend uploading your submission as early as possible to avoid connectivity issues or upload delays. 

Don’t miss your chance to earn $30,000 in the Ready! Contest—submit your Solar Prize Round 5 Software Track submission now!


Solar Prize Round 5 Submissions Due Next Tuesday

Oct. 1, 2021, 8:05 a.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

Don’t forget to submit your Solar Prize Round 5 Software Track innovation by 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Oct. 5!

With only a few days left until the Round 5 submission deadline, now is the time to finalize your submission elements and get your application uploaded to HeroX. As a reminder, here’s what you need to submit to the Software Track: 

  • 90-second video (public)
  • Cover page content
  • Narrative that answers four questions about the problem, solution, team, and plan (including optional responses to questions for JEDI Contest consideration)
    • Not to exceed 2,500 words unless responding to the JEDI Contest questions, which allows for an additional 500 words.
  • One summary PowerPoint slide (public)
  • Technical assistance request (public)
  • Letters of commitment or support (optional).

Make sure you review the rules carefully and use the submission template to complete your entry. Submissions must be in by 5 p.m. ET, though we highly recommend uploading your submission as early as possible to avoid connectivity issues or upload delays. 

Don’t miss your chance to earn $30,000 in the Ready! Contest—submit your Solar Prize Round 5 Software Track submission now!


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