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!
Identify an important problem you want to solve
Submit a 90-second video describing your challenge and proposed solution, team, and plan
Answer a short, four-question narrative and make a slide about this problem or challenge
Submit a two-page technical assistance request
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.
Up to 20
Up to $1,000,000 distributed equally among each winner with $50,000 per winner.
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.
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.
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.
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
Winning the Solar Prize is a big deal. But what does it take to become a winning solar startup?
Most Solar Prize competitors enter with little more than a concept and initial research. Few have worked with national labs or received funding of any sort for their innovation. Some might not even have experience in the traditional solar industry.
No matter how winning teams start, they use the Solar Prize as a catalyst to make rapid progress on their technologies.
In September 2021, AeroShield Materials and the r&d lab were named winners of the Solar Prize Round 4. They, too, were an example of early-stage startups that used the Solar Prize to spin up their business, strategy, and innovation in just a year, earning a total of $650,000 in cash prizes and $150,000 in technical support vouchers for their hard work and ingenuity.
Take a look at where these teams started and how the Solar Prize put their innovations on the fast-track to market.
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.
Today, the two final winners of the Solar Prize Round 4 were announced. Congratulations to AeroShield Materials and the r&d lab!
These teams were chosen for their impressive innovations that addressed critical solar energy challenges and have the potential to advance the industry. Each team won $500,000 in cash prizes and $75,000 in technical support vouchers. Their technologies include:
AeroShield Materials, Boston, MA: This team is developing a flat-plate solar-thermal energy collector system that operates at more than 120 degrees Celsius with efficiencies greater than 45%. Transparent aerogel insulation enables this performance, minimizes heat loss, allows for simpler receiver design, and reduces cost. Aerogel lets light pass through but doesn’t let heat escape.
The r&d lab, Petaluma, CA: This team is designing a metal residential roofing product to make solar roofs more aesthetically pleasing. It will match the color of the roof to the solar panels, increase the speed of installation, and match the lifespans of the solar and roof components. This innovation has the potential to increase solar adoption among consumers.
Congratulations to these two teams for winning the Solar Prize Round 4. We are eager to see your continued impact on solar and beyond!
As a reminder, the Solar Prize Round 5 is now accepting both hardware and software submissions through Oct. 5. We highly encourage Solar Prize newcomers and alumni to apply!
After a year of competing, two of the Round 4 teams will each earn $500,000 in cash prizes and $75,000 in technical support vouchers for their ingenious idea to change the solar industry. Plus, we’ll talk about how innovators can get involved in the Solar Prize Round 5, which is offering $4.6 million in prizes to double the number of teams.
This is a monumental event for the Solar Prize and the future of solar energy.
The Solar Prize Round 4 finalists are one step closer to competition completion! The competing teams submitted their last pitch videos showcasing the progress they’ve made since earning their finalist titles in April 2021.
Here’s a recap of the technologies competing for $500,000 as a final winner:
Team AeroShield Materials: 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 Superclean Glass: This team’s self-cleaning technology uses an electro-dynamic shield to repel dust particles from solar panels. Creating a strong electric field can save up to 98% of PV energy loss caused by dust.
Team Pellucere Oregon State: This team’s silica shield’s nanostructure prevents the buildup of dirt and other particulates on solar panels 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 NanoSpray: This team is developing a highly conductive, spray-coated back contact for cadmium telluride solar panels, to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
Team Rocking Solar: 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 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 the r&d lab: This team is developing a roof designed for solar in order to scale rooftop solar massively by offering an affordable, durable, and aesthetically pleasing roof preferred by installers and owners.
Team Hawai’i Innovation Lab: This team’s room-temperature liquid metal alloy makes highly reflective films targeted for use in 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 Cool Tech Solar: This team is creating a solar panel with a nano-textured heatsink. The heatsink’s structure increases the surface area of the back of the solar panel, helping the panel dissipate heat and lowering its peak operating temperature. The lower temperature may make the solar panel last longer.
Team Urban Energy: This team has developed a rooftop solar-canopy racking system that avoids roof penetrations and maximizes the energy yield benefits by using bifacial modules. This application is targeted for multi-family buildings, which often do not have the roof space to accommodate existing solar solutions.