American-Made Challenges


Solar Prize Round 4

The American-Made Solar Prize is a $3 million prize competition designed to accelerate and sustain American solar innovation.

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Go! Contest Open
$3 million in total prizes, distributed through 3 contest stages (see rules)

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Challenge Overview

Solar Prize Round 4

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
  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 $900,000 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.

Ready!Up to 20  Up to $1,000,000 distributed equally among each winner with $50,000 per winner.
Set!Up to 10  $1,000,000 in total cash prizes and $750,000 in total vouchers. Each winner will receive a cash prize of $100,000 and up to $75,000 in vouchers.
Go!Up to 2$500,000 in cash and up to $75,000 in vouchers per winner


The Ready! Set! and Go! Contests

It all starts with a big idea. 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 / up to 20 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 / up to 10 winners / up to $100,000 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 / up to 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 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.



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

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. 

Congratulations, Solar Prize Round 4 Finalists!

April 12, 2021, 11:03 a.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

On Friday, April 9, the U.S. Department of Energy and National Renewable Energy Laboratory announced the 10 finalist teams that are moving forward in the Solar Prize Round 4. These teams were chosen for the considerable progress they’ve made since winning the Ready! Contest. 

After months of diligent work and a competitive Set! Demo Day, these talented teams each received $100,000 in cash prizes and $75,000 in support vouchers to use at national laboratories and other partner facilities to continue advancing their innovation from proof-of-concept to prototype. The 10 finalist teams will now move on to compete in the final stage of the competition, the Go! Contest.

The Round 4 finalist teams are: 

  • Team AeroShield Materials, Aerogel Insulated Solar Collector for Process Heat: This team is developing a flat-plate solar-thermal energy collector system that operates at more than 150 degrees Celsius with efficiencies greater than 60%. Transparent aerogel insulation enables this performance, minimizes heat loss, allows for simpler receiver design, and reduces cost.
  • Team Cool Tech Solar, Solar Panel with Heatsink: This team is creating a nano-textured heatsink material that can be applied to the back of a solar panel. The heatsink’s structure increases the surface area, helping the panel dissipate heat and lowering its peak operating temperature. The lower temperature will increase power production from the panel and may allow the solar panel to last longer.
  • Team Energy for All, Saving Solar Power: This cell-level battery management and reconditioning device decreases battery degradation and extends the life of new and recycled batteries by up to 30%. This improves the lifetime, performance, and cost of PV storage systems and enables repurposing of used batteries.
  • Team Hawaii Innovation Laboratory, Room Temperature Metal Coating for CSP Mirror: This team’s room-temperature liquid metal alloy makes highly reflective films targeted for use in concentrating solar power (CSP) parabolic troughs for industrial heat applications. Their process uses spray coating, which is easier and less expensive than existing methods for making mirrors.
  • Team NanoSpray, NanoSpray: Low Cost Solutions for Back Contacts: This team is developing a highly conductive, spray-coated back contact for cadmium telluride solar panels, to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
  • Team Pellucere Technologies, MORE POWER LESS DIRT: This team is developing a nanostructured silica shield that can be applied to the front of a solar panel and prevent the buildup of dirt and other particulates to increase energy yield. By developing a robotic surface treatment and coating application process, the team can provide the shield as a retrofit solution.
  • Team Rocking Solar, Rocking Solar Tracker: This tracker system is designed to reduce a PV system’s weight and number of required roof penetrations, so that more commercial and industrial rooftops can host a photovoltaic (PV) system. This system tracks the sun using a rocking motion, like a rocking chair, eliminating bearings and hinges from the support frame that require roof penetrations.
  • Team Superclean Glass, Boosting Energy Yield from Dusty Solar Panel: This team uses an electro-dynamic shield to repel dust particles from solar panels, increasing the energy production and decreasing the need for panel washing. The dust particles are repelled by creating a strong electric field, that can save up to 98% of PV energy lost due to soiling.
  • Team the r&d lab, Roofing for the Sol: This team is designing a new residential metal roofing product that makes solar roofs more aesthetically pleasing. This product will color-match the roof to the PV panels, increase the speed of installation, and provide an integrated solar roofing product where the lifespan of the solar and roof components match.
  • Team Urban Energy, Urban Energy Solar Canopy: This team has developed a rooftop solar-canopy racking system that avoids roof penetrations and increases the possible system size over a standard rooftop PV system. This application is targeted at multi-family buildings, which, with current technology, often do not have economically feasible solutions to add solar to their buildings.

Congratulations, Round 4 finalists! 

Find Out Who Will Advance as a Round 4 Finalist

April 8, 2021, 12:35 p.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

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’re participating in Round 4 or following the groundbreaking technology coming out of the Solar Prize, 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! 

Now Playing: Solar Prize Round 4 Set! Demo Day Pitch Videos

March 31, 2021, 11:48 a.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

Solar Prize Round 4 semifinalists just submitted their Set! Demo Day pitch videos and you’re invited to check them out! Last week, 20 semifinalist teams uploaded pitch videos showcasing the technologies that are now competing in Set! Demo Day. Since December 2020, these teams have been working diligently on their solar solutions, designing, building, and testing proofs-of-concept in preparation for Set! Demo Day. 

Now, you can see their progress showcased in the pitch videos.

On Thursday, April 8, each team will have a private Q&A session with a panel of expert reviewers, after which the panel will deliberate and select 10 finalists. On April 9, Dr. Becca Jones-Albertus, director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, will announce the 10 finalist teams, each winning $100,000 in cash prizes, $75,000 in support vouchers, and a spot in the Go! Contest. The finalist announcement will also feature a surprise industry guest speaker. 

If you’re interested in seeing what the Round 4 teams have been working on, check out their pitch videos now and register to attend the Set! Demo Day Finalist Announcement on Friday, April 9. We hope to see you there! 

Tomorrow: Hear the Solar Prize Round 4 Semifinalists Pitch Their Solar Innovations

March 25, 2021, 11:56 a.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

Tomorrow, March 26, at 1 p.m. ET, come see innovators from across the country present live pitches to a panel of industry experts and investors at the Solar Prize Round 4 Set! Pitch Showcase, hosted by Power Connector Carnegie Mellon University’s Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation as part of Energy Week 2021. 

From 1-4 p.m. ET, 20 semifinalist teams will present a live pitch to an audience of investors and interested members of the public, followed by an industry networking event from 4-5 p.m. ET. 

This is your last chance to RSVP for the event! Whether you’ve been following the progress of Round 4 teams or are curious about the solar innovation happening right now, you’re invited to join the Set! Pitch Showcase. Register now

Forum 45
Teams 618