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.
Judging Closed
$3 million in total prizes, distributed through 3 contest stages (see rules)

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

Small Business Funding Opportunity: SBIR/STTR

Nov. 16, 2020, 5:14 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.

Semifinalist Announcement Happening Dec. 4

Nov. 9, 2020, 4:16 p.m. PST by Jackie Petre

The Solar Prize administrators are excited to share that Round 4 semifinalists will be announced on Dec. 4 in conjunction with the Solar Prize Demo Day and Networking Event. This event will feature an open networking session, the Round 4 semifinalist announcement, and the Round 3 winner announcement. You are invited to attend and hear the live semifinalist announcement. 

As a reminder, 20 Round 4 teams will be announced as semifinalists, each earning $50,000 in cash prizes and continuing to the Set! Contest. Two Round 3 winners will also be announced at this event, each earning $500,000 and marking the end of this round of the competition.

The event will run from 1-3 p.m. ET, with the announcements starting at 2 p.m. ET. Attendees will be able to network before and after the event, making critical industry connections and meeting their fellow Solar Prize competitors. We highly encourage you to join the networking session before the announcement to take advantage of this opportunity. 

We are eager for the announcement of the Round 4 semifinalists and know you are, too! RSVP here for the event

Round 4 Ready! Contest Now Closed

Oct. 9, 2020, 10:15 a.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

Thank you to everyone who submitted an entry to the Solar Prize Round 4 Ready! Contest. Round 4 is now closed to submissions. We received many entries and are excited to see all the creative ideas out there! 

For those who entered the Ready! Contest, please be on the lookout for peer review instructions coming soon. You will have until Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 11 a.m. ET to complete this mandatory part of the submission process.

We hope to announce Round 4 semifinalists in early December—stay tuned for the latest updates! 

Last Chance to Win $50K and Compete in the Solar Prize Round 4

Oct. 8, 2020, 8 a.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

Today is your last chance to submit your innovations, ideas, and technologies to Round 4 of the Solar Prize! Submissions are due on HeroX by 3 p.m. ET. We highly recommend getting all materials submitted before then—don’t get bogged down by a network failure or long upload time and miss the deadline!

The submission process is easy. Here’s what you need:

  1. Project details (name, team members, and key partners, if any)
  2. 90-second video pitch
  3. Four question written narrative (problem, solution, team, plan)
  4. Technical assistance request
  5. Submission summary slide
  6. Letters of commitment or support (optional).

Find the Ready! Contest submission template here.

If you experience technical difficulty uploading your submission, please reach out to the prize administrators as soon as possible. We will be closely monitoring the inbox all day to help with submission uploads. However, we do recommend submitting well before the cutoff time.

Your idea could change the solar industry as we know it, and all you have to do is apply. This is your last chance to compete for a piece of $3 million in the Solar Prize Round 4. Don’t miss out—submit your solar innovation no later than 3 p.m. ET today!

What Does it Take to Win the Solar Prize?

Oct. 6, 2020, 7:59 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

What Does it Take to Win the Solar Prize? 

Solar Prize Round 1 winners Phase3 Photovoltaics and Solar Inventions each won $650,000 during the competition. In August, Round 2 winners Resilient Power Systems and SunFlex Solar each won $650,000 for their solar innovations. Round 3 finalists have won $150,000 so far and will compete again in December in the hopes of winning another $500,000. 

But what does it take to win the Solar Prize? The Round 2 winners are talking about their journey through the competition, including what you should expect and how the prize spurs innovation:


YOU could be the next Solar Prize winner, earning $50,000 in the Ready! Contest and moving on to win bigger prizes as you continue to compete.

Think you have what it takes to win the Solar Prize Round 4? Start your Round 4 submission now and submit by 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, Oct. 8.

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