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.
$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

Solar Prize Round 4 Ready! Contest Semifinalists Announced!

Dec. 4, 2020, 1:07 p.m. PST by Jackie Petre

Thank you to everyone who submitted an idea to the American-Made Solar Prize Ready! Contest. We’re excited that 20 teams have been selected as semifinalists and were announced today by the U.S. Department of Energy. Each of these teams won a $50,000 cash prize and are now eligible to advance to the Set! Contest.

Round 4 includes innovations in three subject areas: systems integration, concentrating solar-thermal power, and photovoltaics. Here are the Round 4 semifinalists:

Systems Integration

  • Artificial Intelligence Enabled Battery-Less Solar Hybrid Inverter (San Jose, CA)
  • Harnessing the Sun Using Medium Voltage Silicon Carbide (SiC) Power Devices (Newtonville, NY)

Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power

  • Solar AirWall (Merritt Island, FL)
  • Room Temperature Metal Coating for CSP Mirror(Honolulu, HI)
  • Aerogel Insulated Solar Collector for Process Heat (Boston, MA)


  • Roofing for the Sol (Petaluma, CA)
  • Lightfoot – Solar-Powered Vehicles (San Francisco, CA)
  • Stable and Scalable Perovskite Solar Cells(West Lafayette, IN)
  • Saving Solar Power (Columbia, MD)
  • Self-Cleaning Solar Power (Boston, MA)
  • Integrated Solar Power and Insulated Wall System (Easthampton, MA)
  • Solar Panel with Heatsink (North Oaks, MN)
  • The Mighty Power System (Monmouth County, NJ)
  • NanoSpray: Low Cost Solutions for Back Contacts (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Urban Energy Solar Canopy (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Next-Gen Solar Roofing Product Collaboration(Highland, NY)
  • Boosting Energy Yield from Dusty Solar Panels(Stony Brook, NY)
  • Rocking Solar Tracker (Mason, OH)
  • More Power Less Dirt (Corvallis, OR)
  • Cost-Effective Eco-Friendly PV Recycling (Austin, TX)

Learn more about each submission by checking out the HeroX Community tab.

There were numerous, impressive submissions to the Ready! Contest. In fact, we received more than 130 submissions from across the country for Round 4. 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.

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 solar topics and how to submit a letter of intent by Jan. 4, 2021.

We want to thank all teams for competing in the Solar Prize Round 4 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 4 semifinalists!

Tomorrow: Round 4 Semifinalist Announcement

Dec. 3, 2020, 8 a.m. PST by Jackie Petre

Tomorrow, Dec. 4, the U.S. Department of Energy is announcing the Solar Prize Round 4 semifinalists! The announcement will happen at 2 p.m. ET in conjunction with the Solar Prize Demo Day & Networking Event. The event starts at 1 p.m. ET with an hour-long networking session ahead of the Round 4 semifinalist and Round 3 winner announcements. 

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.

This event is free and open to the public. We encourage you to invite friends, peers, and other solar industry professionals. The networking session will resume after announcements conclude for continued discussions and congratulations. 

RSVP here for the Solar Prize Demo Day and Networking Event tomorrow. Good luck!

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! 

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Teams 587

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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  .

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.

Tags and labels are a requirement in the submission form.  A series of checkbox options will present options for properly tagging or labeling your entry.

There are 3 primary keyword tags: Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), Grid Integration & Modeling, and Photovoltaics (PV).

Each of the primary keyword tags have a subset of tags related to that topic.  These options will be presented during the submission process in the submission form.  

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.  Only PDF files will be accepted for upload.

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.

The summary slide must be uploaded as a PDF document.  Please be sure that you export or save your slide as a PDF prior to uplo

Yes!  There are no restrictions for competitors who submitted in Round 1 thru 3,  your great idea is still eligible for Round 4.