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Solar Prize Round 6

The Solar Prize Round 6 offers $4.1 million in cash prizes to competitors over three progressive contests.

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prize:
$4,100,000

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Summary

Solar Prize Contests

Innovation happens when the right resources, people, and passion come together. With the American-Made Solar Prize Round 6, teams of creative individuals and entrepreneurs advance conceptual solutions toward product realities with the support of a unique and powerful network and a chance to win part of $4.1 million in prizes.

A Prize Competition Structured for Success

The Solar Prize encourages the rapid development of innovative solar energy solutions capable of addressing the tough challenges facing the solar industry. Solar Prize competitors participate in three contests—the Ready!, Set!, and Go! Contests—to transform their ideas into reality in months, rather than years. Competitors have the chance to win part of $4.1 million in prizes to help them advance in the competition and accelerate the development of their solution.

Creating Space for Change

Round 6 includes an optional additional challenge that focuses on advancing solar in underserved communities. Participants who choose to incorporate this initiative into their solutions have the chance to be considered for a new Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Contest and earn part of the $200,000 bonus cash prize!

More than $3 Million in Incentives for Innovation

The Ready!, Set!, and Go! Contests fast-track efforts to identify, develop, and test disruptive solutions to solar industry needs for a total of $3 million in cash prizes and $900,000 in vouchers that can be used at national laboratories and other voucher facilities to develop, test, and validate. Each contest has a performance period when participants work to advance their solutions.

The Ready!, Set!, and Go! Contests

  • Ready! Contest
    20 winners / $50,000 cash prize each and optional JEDI Contest prize
    Winners are selected after identifying an impactful idea or solution addressing a critical need in the solar industry;
  • Set! Contest
    10 winners / $100,000 cash prize each, $75,000 support voucher each, and optional JEDI Contest prize
    Competitors work to substantially advance their technology solution toward a viable and promising proof of concept.
  • Go! Contest
    2 winners / $500,000 cash prize each, $75,000 support voucher each, and optional JEDI Contest prize
    ​Competitors 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

During the competition, competitors in the Set! and Go! Contests pitch and demonstrate proofs of concept 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! finalists and Go! winners.

Connecting You to the Innovation Engine 

The American-Made Network provides support to Solar Prize competitors throughout the competition and is comprised of national labs, incubators, investors, facilities, and seasoned industry mentors. The American-Made Network strengthens and scales the critical connections needed to grow new businesses, develop solutions, and sustain American innovation. Members of the Network provide the tools, technical insight, product validation, industry expertise, and strategic support teams need to succeed throughout the competition.

Anyone can Compete

Competitors are entrepreneurial individuals or teams, legally residing or based in the U.S., 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.

Here's how to join the Solar Prize Round 6:

  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.

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 .

The American-Made Solar Prize is a multimillion-dollar prize competition designed to energize U.S. solar innovation through a series of contests that accelerate the entrepreneurial process from years to months. 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
Updates8

Challenge Updates

Solar Prize Round 6 Ready! Contest Semifinalists Announced

Dec. 8, 2022, 7:36 a.m. PST by NREL Challenge

The Solar Prize Round 6 semifinalists have been announced! The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $50,000 to 20 teams who will now advance to the Set! Contest. Additionally, two teams received a $25,000 prize for winning the optional Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Contest, which encourages solutions that enable underserved communities to overcome systemic barriers to solar deployment.

The semifinalist teams moving on in Solar Prize Round 6 are as follows: 

Photovoltaics

  • Autonomous Cable-Free Anchoring for Floating Solar (Sausalito, California) – This team is developing autonomous motors for floating solar, replacing traditional anchors and mooring systems. This simplifies installation and reduces cost, redundant engineering for each project, and diving teams needed for installation. Learn more about their tech.
  • Clearing the Hurdle of High-Cost Agrivoltaics (Portland, Oregon) – This team is developing a high-clearance single-axis tracker for photovoltaic (PV) systems meant to be integrated into active farmland (agrivoltaics). By using raised cables to stabilize and move the panels, this technology lowers costs and uses less steel than traditional agrivoltaic racking systems. Learn more about their tech.
  • Crack Catcher AI (Klamath Falls, Oregon) – This team is developing a system of lasers and artificial intelligence (AI) to assess mechanical stress on PV cells, sensing and predicting fracturing. This will reduce defects that lead to reliability and quality issues, increase manufacturing yield, enhance long-term durability, and secure U.S. competitiveness in the PV market. Learn more about their tech.
  • Facilitating Snow Removal from Solar Panels (Toledo, Ohio) – This team is developing a durable strip coating that is applied to the lower edge of solar panels to help shed snow. By shedding snow from panels in a quick and low-cost way, solar plants continue to operate efficiently year-round. Learn more about their tech.
  • Ground-Based Mounting System for Rural Solar (Miami, Florida) – This team is developing a ground-based solar panel mounting system that can be assembled by anyone and connected by an electrician. This system is convenient for renters, rural households, and tribal areas, increasing solar adoption opportunities. Learn more about their tech(JEDI Contest Winner)
  • Maximize Efficiency (Las Vegas, Nevada) – This team is developing a self-cleaning and chemically resistant nanocoating that prevents soiling of solar panels. This protection can increase panel efficiency and reduce panel maintenance costs. Learn more about their tech.
  • Retractable Solar Modules for Buildings and Beyond (Mountain View, California) – This team is developing a retractable PV shade screen for use in greenhouses. This provides on-site energy production for the greenhouses while also providing proper shade for plant production. Learn more about their tech.
  • The Beam Module: PreFab Solar for Commercial Roofs (San Francisco, California) – This team is developing a prefabricated solar panel with integrated racking for commercial flat roofs. This solution will reduce costs by eliminating on-site fabrication or assembly for faster installation, design, and permitting. Learn more about their tech.
  • Ultra-Thin, Flexible Solar PV for More Surfaces (San Diego, California) – This team is developing ultra-thin, flexible, crystalline silicon solar PV cells that can wrap around buildings and vehicles. The technology will enable low-cost installation for the vehicle-integrated PV market, offset needs for grid-charging electric vehicles, and expand access to renewable energy. Learn more about their tech.

Systems Integration

  • Grid-on-a-Chip: Accelerating Solar Interconnection (Sunnyvale, California) – This team is developing a grid simulation platform that enables faster feasibility studies for interconnecting solar and other renewable energy resources to the grid. With this platform, simulations that used to take days to complete can now be completed in a few minutes. Learn more about their tech.
  • Second Life Solar (Signal Hills, California) – This team is developing a method for testing the health of decommissioned electric vehicle batteries that can be completed in 30 seconds, speeding up the 10-hour process typical of existing technology. This allows for fast screening of used batteries and certification for use in grid-scale solar storage. Learn more about their tech.
  • World's Most Reliable Inverter (Cary, North Carolina) – This team is developing a low-cost inverter that combines efficient, older technology with new control techniques to create a fully sealed inverter design that uses natural cooling. This allows for higher reliability and performance for utility-scale solar compared to other inverters on the market. Learn more about their tech.

Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power (CSP)

  • Deployable Off-Grid CSP Desalination with MEDAD (Honolulu, Hawaii) – This team is designing an off-grid, small-scale CSP desalination system that harvests heat from the sun to produce fresh water. This modular, affordable, and efficient desalination system can deliver potable water to areas with freshwater shortages. Learn more about their tech(JEDI Contest Winner)

Finance and Business Models

  • Hail Cat – Identify, Quantify, and Mitigate Hail Risk (San Jose, California) – This team is developing a web-based software platform that allows solar developers and insurance companies to identify, quantify, and prevent hail damage. This enables sound financial assessments of potential risk-mitigation strategies and a rational basis for insurance prices and terms. Learn more about their tech.
  • Shared Data, Smaller Queues, More Interconnections (Portland, Maine) – This team is developing a cloud-based, collaborative data and modeling platform for developers and utilities to use shared data, models, and maps to site and size solar energy projects. This software will result in faster approval times and fewer projects clogging the interconnection queue. Learn more about their tech.
  • SolarBound Build Confidence Build Trust Build Solar (Fort Collins, Colorado) – This team is developing an online marketplace for appraising solar land value and generating portfolios for developers. This tool could increase the percentage of successful solar projects by mitigating risks for developers and customers. Learn more about their tech.

System Operations

  • Autonomous Solar Panel Inspections (New York, New York) – This team is developing software to automate drone piloting of solar field aerial thermography scans. Automating this process can lower the cost of each scan report, increase the frequency of inspections, and collect more data to improve the performance of solar farms. Learn more about their tech.
  • Latimer Controls Enables Intelligent Solar Power (Boulder, Colorado) – This team is developing an intelligent control software that enables utility-scale PV to provide power reliably and on demand. This will replace grid reliance on fossil fuels, drive higher profitability for PV operators, and generate revenue increases for solar asset owners with low capital cost. Learn more about their tech.

System Design

  • Advancing Agrivoltaics (Chicago, Illinois) – This team is developing a software that allows solar developers to optimize solar panel configurations on agrivoltaics sites. Their software estimates energy output from solar panels and the amount of sunlight crops receive, and helps maximize revenue for both solar developers and farmers. Learn more about their tech.
  • LEAF Solar Design Assistant (Akron, Ohio) – This team is developing a computer-aided design plugin that automates layout design of utility solar sites for solar engineers. This decreases the manual redrawing of strings for each project, reducing labor hours and costs. Learn more about their tech.

Learn more about each semifinalist submission.

Additional Funding Opportunities

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 email from the prize administrators with comments and feedback on your submission from the reviewers.

We also suggest exploring funding opportunities through DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) funding program. Through SBIR/STTR, small businesses can receive funding for engaging in high-risk, innovative research and development with the potential for commercialization. 

Thank you to everyone who applied for Solar Prize Round 6. We hope you will 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 Newsletter or following us on LinkedIn and Twitter. Should you have questions, please feel free to reach out at solar.prize@nrel.gov. 

Congratulations, again, to the Round 6 semifinalists!  


Today: Solar Prize Round 6 Submissions Due by 5 p.m. ET!

Oct. 6, 2022, 7:30 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Today is the deadline to submit your innovation to the Solar Prize Round 6. Make sure your full submission is uploaded no later than 5 p.m. ET today!

 As a reminder, here’s what you need to submit: 

  • 90-second video (public)
  • Cover page content
  • Narrative that answers four questions about the problem, solution, team, and plan (not to exceed 2,500 words)
  • One summary PowerPoint slide (public)
  • Technical assistance request (public)
  • Letters of commitment or support (optional).

Anyone submitting to Round 6 has the option to participate in Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Contest for additional cash prizes. See the rules for specific requirements around applying to the JEDI Contest. 

Make sure you review the rules carefully and use the submission template to complete your entry. Submissions must be in by 5 p.m. ET and we will not accept late submissions. We highly recommend uploading your submission as early as possible to avoid connectivity issues or upload delays. 

Don’t miss your chance to earn $50,000 in the Ready! Contest—submit your Solar Prize Round 6 submission now! Good luck!


Solar Prize Round 6 Submissions Due Next Thursday

Sept. 28, 2022, 9 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Don’t forget to submit your Solar Prize Round 6 innovation by 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, Oct. 6!

With only a few days left until the Round 6 submission deadline, now is the time to finalize your submission elements and get your application uploaded to HeroX. As a reminder, here’s what you need to submit: 

  • 90-second video (public)
  • Cover page content
  • Narrative that answers four questions about the problem, solution, team, and plan [including optional responses to questions for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Contest consideration]
    • Not to exceed 2,500 words unless responding to the JEDI Contest questions, which allows for an additional 500 words.
  • One summary PowerPoint slide (public)
  • Technical assistance request (public)
  • Letters of commitment or support (optional).

Anyone submitting to Round 6 has the option to participate in JEDI Contest for additional cash prizes. See the rules for specific requirements around applying to the JEDI Contest. 

Make sure you review the rules carefully and use the submission template to complete your entry. Submissions must be in by 5 p.m. ET and we will not accept late submissions. We highly recommend uploading your submission as early as possible to avoid connectivity issues or upload delays. 

Don’t miss your chance to earn $50,000 in the Ready! Contest—submit your Solar Prize Round 6 submission now!


Now Available: Solar Prize Round 6 Informational Webinar Recording

July 14, 2022, 9 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

If you missed the Solar Prize Round 6 Informational Webinar, you can now stream the recording or view the presentation slides

During this presentation, the Solar Prize administrators reviewed competition goals, eligibility requirements, important dates, how to find support from the American-Made Network, and more. We also addressed numerous questions during the Q&A portion of the webinar.

If you would like submission support, please check the HeroX forum for ways to get in touch with Power Connectors and stay tuned for more details on this topic.

Check out the recording below to hear what was discussed and what you need to submit by Oct. 6. 


Don’t Miss the Solar Prize Informational Webinar Today!

July 13, 2022, 8 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Today’s the day to learn how to compete in the Solar Prize Round 6! Tune in at 2 p.m. ET today for this introductory session covering everything you need to know about how to compete in this round of the prize. Prize administrators will go over the details of the competition, then host a question-and-answer session. 

Make sure you join us live to ask your pressing questions about submissions, rules, deadlines, milestones, or any other aspect of the competition! Register here

We look forward to seeing you there! 


Forum27
Teams644
Entries
Resources
FAQ