American-Made Challenges

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Solar Prize Round 2

The American-Made Solar Prize is a $3 million prize competition designed to accelerate and sustain American solar innovation.
stage:
Won
prize:
$1,000,000 distributed equally with a range of $25,000 to $50,000 in cash per winner (see Rules)
Overview

Challenge Overview

Solar Prize Round 2

 

This competition is closed to the general public, learn about out the competitors who are competing in the Set! and Go! Contests.

Interested in competing?  There is a new round of the competition open to the public, join the challenge.

 

Solar Prize Contests

Innovation happens when the right resources, people, and passion come together. With the Solar Prize, teams of creative individuals and entrepreneurs will advance conceptual solutions toward product realities with the support of a unique and powerful network and a chance to win up to $3 million in cash prizes.

 

 

A prize competition structured for success

The Solar Prize is an opportunity for anyone interested in accelerating ideas and solutions. The American-Made Network is designed to strengthen and scale the very best ideas and teams through three progressive prize competitions, the Ready! Set! Go! Contests. This network provides the tools and expertise to help projects succeed and is comprised of an unparalleled innovation system. These resources will provide technical insight, product validation, and strategic support to teams throughout the competition.

 

Competing in the prize is easy!

  1. Identify an important problem you want to solve (discover ideas through ideation on HeroX)
  2. Submit a 90-second video describing your challenge and proposed solution, team, and plan
  3. Answer a short, four-question narrative and make a slide about this problem or challenge
  4. Submit a two-page technical assistance request
  5. Update your videos and statements as you advance through the contests.

 

More than $3 million in incentives for innovation

The Ready! Set! Go! Contests will fast-track efforts to identify, develop, and test disruptive solutions to solar industry needs for a total of $3 million in cash prizes and up to $525,000 in vouchers which can be used at national laboratories and other voucher facilities to develop, test, and validate. Each stage will have a 90-day performance period when participants work to advance their solutions.

 

ContestWinnersPrizes
Ready!20 to 40$1,000,000 distributed equally with a range of $25,000 to $50,000 in cash per winner
Set!5 to 10$1,000,000 in cash and $375,000 in vouchers distributed within a range of $100,000 to $200,000 in cash and $37,500 to $75,000 in vouchers per winner
Go!2$500,000 in cash and up to $75,000 in vouchers per winner

 

The Ready! Set! and Go! Contests

 

Ideate

It all starts with a big idea. You can enter the Ready! Contest with an idea from the ideation platform or an idea that’s all your own. Once a completed package has been submitted on HeroX, your video will be made public and you’ll become part of the Ready! Contest.

 

  • Ready! Contest
    90 days / 20-40 winners / up to $50,000 cash 
    Winners will be selected after identifying an impactful idea or solution addressing a critical need in the solar industry;

 

  • Set! Contest
    90 days / 5-10 winners / up to $200,000 prize and up to $75,000 in vouchers 
    Competitors will work to substantially advance their technology solution toward a viable and promising proof of concept.

 

  • Go! Contest
    90 days / 2 winners / $500,000 prize and up to $75,000 in vouchers 
    ​Competitors will work to substantially advance their solution from proof of concept to a refined prototype and find a partner to perform a pilot test of the prototype.

 

  • Demo Days
    Competitors in the Set! and Go! Contests pitch and demonstrate proof of concepts and prototypes to a judging panel and audience at two, live, in-person Demo Day events. Demo days are opportunities to meet competitors, connectors, power connectors, and other members of the American-Made Network. Demo Days culminate in the announcement of Set! and Go! prize winners.

 

Anyone can compete

Competitors are entrepreneurial individuals or teams, legally residing or based in the U.S., can compete including members of one or multiple organizations, students, university faculty members, small business owners, researchers, or anyone with the desire and drive to transform ideas into impactful realities.

 

Ready!, Set!, Go! Guidelines

The Ready!, Set!, and Go! Contests will fast-track efforts to identify, develop, and test disruptive solutions to meet solar industry needs. Each stage will include a contest period when participants will work to rapidly advance their solutions. DOE invites anyone, individually or as a team, to compete to transform a conceptual solution into product reality.

Please visit the How to Compete in the American-Made Solar Prize page to view the full rules for American-Made Challenges Ideation and the American-Made Challenges Solar Prize.

 

 

The American-Made Solar Prize is a $3 million prize competition designed to revitalize U.S. solar manufacturing 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. The American-Made Solar Prize is directed and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. Learn more.

Timeline
Updates 47

Challenge Updates

Looking to Take Your Solar Idea to the Next Level? Compete in Round 5

Sept. 14, 2021, 8:15 a.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

Looking to take your solar idea to the next level? The Solar Prize Round 5 is still offering $4.6 million to up to 40 hardware and software technologies. Submit your idea by Oct. 5 for the chance to win big. 

With the Solar Prize Round 5 introducing a two-track system that focuses on hardware and software components separately, innovators have double the chance to win cash prizes and move forward in the competition. If you have a creative solar solution at any phase in the innovation process, there’s no reason not to apply to Round 5

As a reminder, participants across both tracks will follow the same timeline but compete for separate prize pools. 

Hardware Track: The Hardware Track offers $3 million in cash prizes to competitors over three progressive contests. This track places an emphasis on developing physical solar innovations that energize U.S. manufacturing.

Software Track: The Software Track offers $1.6 million in cash prizes over three contests, plus an additional challenge that awards technologies that incorporate environmental justice principles. This track accelerates the development, validation, and commercialization of innovative solar software solutions that increase the competitiveness of the U.S. solar industry.

The prize administrators invite all Solar Prize alumni and new competitors to submit an idea to Round 5! With double the opportunity to earn cash prizes, the Solar Prize has never been more accessible to innovators. 

Learn more about each track by following the Hardware Track and/or Software Track on HeroX. Don’t forget—submissions are due Oct. 5 by 5 p.m. ET


Announcing the Solar Prize Round 5—More Cash Prizes, More Opportunity for Innovation

June 11, 2021, 8 a.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

Yesterday, the Solar Prize Round 5 launched the fifth round of competition, this time with two tracks that focus on hardware and software components separately. With this two-track structure, Round 5’s Hardware and Software Tracks offer a combined $4.6 million in cash prizes, double the winners, and a new challenge that addresses environmental justice.

Participants across both tracks will follow the same timeline but compete for separate prize pools. 

Hardware Track: The Hardware Track offers $3 million in cash prizes to competitors over three progressive contests. This track places an emphasis on developing physical solar innovations that energize U.S. manufacturing.

Software Track: The Software Track offers $1.6 million in cash prizes over three contests, plus an additional challenge that awards competitors who meet justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) requirements. This track accelerates the development, validation, and commercialization of innovative solar software solutions that increase the competitiveness of the U.S. solar industry.

The goal for developing two tracks in the Solar Prize Round 5 is to allow more entrepreneurs to compete in the solar innovation space. The U.S. Department of Energy recognizes the need for both hardware and software technologies in the industry. 

The prize administrators invite all Solar Prize alumni and new competitors to submit an idea to Round 5! 

Have questions about competing? Learn more about the two-track structure, milestones, and more at the Solar Prize Round 5 Informational Webinar on Tuesday, July 13, at 3 p.m. ET. Register here for the webinar

Follow the Hardware Track and Software Track on HeroX for updates. 


Find Out Who Will Advance as a Round 4 Finalist

April 8, 2021, 11 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Two weeks ago, 20 Solar Prize Round 4 semifinalist teams submitted their Set! Contest pitch videos. Today, teams participate in private Q&A sessions with a panel of expert reviewers to discuss their technologies. Tomorrow, we’ll find out which 10 teams are selected to continue to the Go! Contest as finalists. 

Whether you participated in a previous round of the Solar Prize and want to see the next cohort of innovators, or you’re interested in groundbreaking solar technology, you’re invited to join tomorrow’s finalist announcement at 2 p.m. ET to find out which 10 teams will win $100,000 in cash prizes and $75,000 in support vouchers. 

The Round 4 Set! Demo Day Finalist Announcement will feature guest speaker William Huston, founder and director of institutional services at Bay Street Capital Holdings. Huston will be speaking about investing in renewable energy and how innovators can make their technology attractive to venture capitalists. 

You won’t want to miss this event!

Register now and tune in tomorrow, April 9, at 2 p.m. ET for the Solar Prize Round 4 Set! Demo Day Finalist Announcement! 


Small Business Funding Opportunity: SBIR/STTR

Nov. 16, 2020, 5:13 p.m. PST by Jackie Petre

On Nov. 9, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the solar topics for the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) funding program for fiscal year 2021. 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. Successful awardees can then receive up to $1.1 million for prototype development.

DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office is hosting an informational webinar on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the solar energy SBIR/STTR topics. DOE is seeking projects that advance early-stage ideas in the following topics:

  • Floating Solar-Powered Aeration Systems
  • Solar Systems Resilient to Weather-Related or Cyber Threats
  • Innovation in Solar Aesthetics for Residential Photovoltaic Systems
  • Commercial and Industrial Solar Systems
  • Agricultural Solar Systems
  • Components for Generation 3 Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power (Gen3 CSP) Thermal Transport Systems
  • Affordability, Reliability, and Performance of Solar Technologies
  • Conductivity-Enhanced Materials for Affordable, Breakthrough Leapfrog Electric and Thermal Applications (CABLE): Electrical Connections for Photovoltaic Modules and Systems Subtopic.

Additionally, there are two technology transfer opportunities, which are designed to transfer a patented technology from a national lab to a small business for commercialization:  

  • Method for Mechanical Load Testing of Photovoltaic (PV) Modules with Concurrently Applied Stressors and Diagnostic Methods
  • Nanocomposite Barrier Films for PV Applications.

 

Mandatory letters of intent are due Jan. 4, 2021, at 5 p.m. ET. Learn more about the solar topics, and register here for this week’s informational webinar.


Congratulations, Round 2 Winners!

Oct. 14, 2020, 2:29 p.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

On Aug. 27, 10 finalist teams from Round 2 of the Solar Prize had virtual Q&A sessions with a panel of expert reviewers, discussing their technologies in the hopes of taking home $500,000. After a year of competition, they were eager to find out who would be the next Solar Prize champions. The next day, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the two final winners: Resilient Power Systems and SunFlex Solar. 

Both teams were chosen because of their products’ viability and potential to impact the solar industry. Each team made extraordinary progress developing their innovations and business models, despite enormous challenges from COVID-19. Here’s a look inside their journey through Round 2: 

Read the full story on Resilient Power Systems, SunFlex Solar, and Round 2 here.

Congratulations to these two teams for their success thus far—we can’t wait to see how far you go!

If you want to be the first to hear about prize updates, events, and new competitions, sign up for the American-Made Challenges Newsletter.


Forum 34
Teams 567
Entries
Resources
FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

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

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.

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

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

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

We want to allow for the option that a competitor may significantly advance their solution and identify a pilot partner even if they did not win a Set! Prize. The teams that address the goals of the Go! Prize will win the Go! Prize.

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

The success of this program ultimately depends on bringing relevant innovation and impactful ideas to the solar industry. We think our competitors have a strong pulse on industry needs and we wanted to engage them by getting community input. By using a randomly assigned peer ranking process, the Prize Administrator will be able to better assign individual submissions to judges with the appropriate expertise and we will have a wealth of data about how our winners were ranked by the community.

Please review Appendix 1 of the official rules document for a list of the updates to the rules covered in this modification.

American-Made_Solar_Prize_Rules.pdf

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 challenge@nrel.gov.

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.

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.

Or, you may contact a challenge administrator directly at challenge@nrel.gov

To add tags or labels to an entry you must first submit an entry.

Once you have completed the submission entry form, you'll see a new element on the main page for the Solar Prize.  Each submission you enter will be shown here, along with the title and a button to view your entry.

Now that an entry exists, you may add labels to it.  The purpose of this is to help categorize the submission focus areas and to help facilitate a faster judging process.  It also allows for discoverability for reviewers.

To add a label, click the button for the desired entry you wish to edit/add to.  You'll then see a the preview screen for that submission.  Toward the top of the browser window will be a button titled Label.  Click this button, and select the desired tags/keywords from the dropdown list.  You may select multiple tags to apply to your entry.  Simply click the button and select the appropriate keyword for as many options as you need.

If a keyword does not exist for your submission, you may use the Other option.

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.

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.

Yes!  There are no restrictions for competitors who submitted in Round 1, your great idea is still eligible for Round 2.