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.
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.
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
Based on your interested in the Solar Prize Software Track, we wanted to share a new prize opportunity with you.
The $1.1-million Digitizing Utilities Prize—sponsored by U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity—invites experts in data analytics and software development to transform digital systems in the energy sector through data processing, quality assurance, storage, and deletion.
In Phase 1, competitors will work directly alongside utility partners to propose a solution that improves how the energy industry manages, stores, and processes large data sets. Up to nine winners of Phase 1 will receive a cash prize of $75,000.
In addition, mark your calendars for Wednesday, November 15 at 12 p.m. MT. Register now to learn more about the prize timeline and deliverables. A recording of the webinar will be available after the event.
If you’re interested in transforming digital systems in the energy sector, we encourage you to compete in the Digitizing Utilities Prize. The deadline to enter is Thursday, January 26, 2023. Good luck!
The 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.
The following Hardware Track winners were awarded $500,000 cash and $75,000 in vouchers to help the team bring their concept to fruition.
OrigamiSolar, 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.
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!
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.
During the competition’s final event, Go! Demo Day, Software 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 Software 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 Software Track will be announced and awarded $200,000, plus $50,000 in vouchers to help the team bring their concept to fruition. In addition, one winner of the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Contest will be announced and awarded $100,000 (Note: Teams need not win the Go! Contest in order to be eligible to win the JEDI contest.) 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.
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 Software Track teams were each awarded $60,000 in cash prizes, and three of those teams received an additional $33,333 for their submissions to the optional Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Contest, which focuses on advancing solar adoption in underserved communities.
Semifinalist teams showcased their concepts during the virtual Round 5 Set! Demo Day events, after demonstrating their software’s minimum viable products. 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:
Better Solar (Orlando, FL): This team is building machine vision software to process electroluminescence (EL) imagery and automatically identify PV defects with application to both PV module manufacturing and PV plant maintenance.
CleanFi (Los Angeles, CA): This team is developing a platform that seeks to automate solar project financing for the small-and-midscale commercial sector, including facilitating the use of commercial property assessed clean energy (C-PACE).
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.
KiloNewton (Albuquerque, NM): This team is developing geospatial software to optimally site utility-scale solar and avoid challenging terrain, helping to avoid costly discoveries that can come in later stages of project development.
Midday Tech (San Francisco, CA): This team is building a platform to connect consumers who purchase voluntary carbon offsets with high-impact rooftop solar projects in underserved communities. (JEDI Contest winner)
Nimbus AI (Honolulu, HI): This team is creating day-ahead probabilistic solar irradiance forecasts leveraging recent advances in satellite imagery and advanced machine learning algorithms.
Sandbox Solar (Fort Collins, CO): This team is building software to help design agrivoltaic projects, with a focus on simulating the microclimates under solar modules and predicting crop growth yields.
SolarGrade (Carlsbad, CA): This team is building a workflow management platform to facilitate inspection, operations, and maintenance of PV systems leveraging field technician inputs and data analytics.
Solar Stewards Marketplace (Atlanta, GA): This team is creating a marketplace for a new type of renewable energy credit (REC), a social REC, that allows corporate purchasers to buy RECs produced in underserved communities, aligning better with their corporate missions. (JEDI Contest winner)
The Solar Equity Team (Boston, MA): This team is developing a platform that connects larger installations that have surplus solar generation with nonprofits and underserved consumers to enable an easy peer-to-peer credit sharing transaction. (JEDI Contest winner)
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 $200,000 cash prize and $50,000 support voucher to help them bring their technology to market.
Congratulations to the finalist teams and all of the Solar Prize Round 5 competitors!
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!