menu

American-Made Challenges

 20,351

Solar Prize Round 7

The Solar Prize Round 7 offers $4.2 million in prizes to competitors over three progressive contests.

This challenge is closed

stage:
Enter
prize:
$4,200,000

This challenge is closed

more
Summary
Timeline
Updates15
Forum8
Teams687
Entries
Resources
FAQ
Summary

Challenge Overview

The American-Made Solar Prize Round 7 is a $4.2 million prize competition designed to energize U.S. solar innovation through a series of contests that accelerate the entrepreneurial process from years to months. Competitors leverage the American-Made Network, our innovation engine of more than 400 organizations, including world-class experts at the U.S. Department of Energy’s 17 national labs, clean tech accelerators, incubators, universities, facilities, and more.

JEDI Contest: Creating Space for Change

The Solar Prize Round 7 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!

New to Round 7: Power Up Your Idea

For those who have a great idea for a solar technology that could be commercialized in 3 to 5 years, but need a boost to take their innovation to the next level, Round 7 offers the new Power Up Contest. This contest is designed to support and advance new and diverse teams that have compelling applications but aren’t selected to advance to the Set! Contest. Up to 10 teams may be selected to split a $100,000 prize pool and receive tailored business support. 

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 / Power Up Contest
    Winners are selected after identifying an impactful idea or solution for a solar technology that could be commercialized in 3 to 5 years, 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.

Read the rules for full details on each contest. 

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.

Round 7 seeks hardware and software solutions alike. The prize invites anyone, individually or as a team, to transform a conceptual solution into an impactful product and business. 

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.

Join and connect with Network members

Who can Compete?

Competitors are entrepreneurial individuals or teams legally residing or based in the United States. Competitors can be individuals of one or multiple organizations, students, university faculty members, small business owners, researchers, or anyone with the desire and drive to transform an idea into an impactful solution.

Sign up for updates by “following” the prize at the top of this page. 


Education Modules

The Power Connectors for Solar Prize Round 7 have put together several educational videos to assist all of our teams with their submissions, business plans, and more. Please return to this page to find more learning modules, as we will add more as they are released. 

Below you will find the title and link of each of the learning modules below. We highly suggest you reach out to the Power Connector that hosted the module if you have follow up questions. Find their contacts here: https://www.herox.com/solarprizeround7/resource/1363

 

Check out the following videos as you’re preparing your submission to learn more about how to best position your innovation: 

If you have further questions, stream the informational webinar recording, view the presentation slides, or reach out to prize administrators at . And don’t forget: The deadline for all submissions is Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 5 p.m. ET. Just click “Solve This Challenge” on the HeroX page!


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 follow feature on the HeroX platform or message us directly at .

Looking for assistance with your submission? Contact one of our Power Connectors!

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
Updates15

Challenge Updates

$1.85M Digitizing Utilities Prize Round 2 Open Through May 7

Feb. 16, 2024, 11 a.m. PST by NREL Prize Administrator

Hey, competitors! Did you know the American-Made program is continuously launching new, exciting prizes that support a wide array of clean energy sources? In fact, the Digitizing Utilities Prize is back for Round 2 and searching for innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing electric utilities across the U.S. 

This two-phase, $1.85 million prize aims to connect utilities with interdisciplinary teams of software developers and data experts to transform digital systems and data analytics for utilities in the energy sector. This round will also address cybersecurity threats and risks with demonstrated improvements in risk identification, analysis, prediction, or proactive response for enhanced protection of digital energy infrastructures.

Register today for an informational webinar on March 21st at 12 p.m. ET to hear more about the competition, including deadlines, submission requirements, and other important prize details. (Can’t make the webinar? A recording of the event will be posted on the prize’s HeroX page within a few days of the event.) 

We hope to see you at our March webinar! 

-The Digitizing Utilities Prize Round 2 Admin Team


Get to Know the Power Up Contest Winners

Jan. 30, 2024, 7:16 a.m. PST by NREL Prize Administrator

For the first time in the history of the Solar Prize, 10 teams have been selected as winners of the brand-new Power Up Contest. This new contest is designed to support new and diverse entrants to the solar industry. The teams were rewarded $10,000 each for submissions that showed strong potential but weren’t selected to move on to the Set! Contest. 

Now in its seventh round, the Solar Prize was designed to nurture a broad spectrum of ideas that can advance the solar industry, from software that improves efficiency, to innovative materials with a lower carbon footprint, to systems that reduce maintenance costs. The Power Up Contest provides a way for an increased number of teams to receive support needed to impact the industry. 

Power Up awardees will use their cash award, along with support from American-Made Power Connectors, to strengthen their innovations and business plans to be more competitive in future competitions.

“While only 20 teams can advance to the next stage of the Solar Prize competition, there are certainly more than 20 teams ready to use their perspectives to make a big impact on the solar industry,” said Markus Beck, Manufacturing and Competitiveness Program manager in the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office. “The Power Up Contest is a way to recognize those innovators and set them on the path to success.”

The Power Up Contest winners are as follows (in alphabetical order): 

  1. Amaterra Tech (Austin, TX) – This team is developing a distributed control system for microgrids that can integrate seamlessly with existing infrastructure. This solution will allow microgrids to expand quickly, reducing costs of adding new storage and generation to the systems.
  2. Ark Power Systems (Lake Linden, MI) – This solution is a modular, scalable, ground-mount solar racking system that enables the low-cost, fast installation of complete residential and commercial PV systems at scale. This can greatly reduce the soft costs of solar installations.  
  3. Exergi (Buffalo, NY) – This team is developing a residential Solar Turbine System to provide homeowners with another option to adopt solar for those who can’t install on their roofs. It features a low space requirement, placement versatility, and easy installation and uninstallation.
  4. First Principle Energy (Sunnyvale, CA) – This team is developing a high-strength cable wire rope to mount solar panels, leading to lower levelized costs of electricity, installation costs, and foundation costs. The structure will adapt to uneven terrain due to its light weight, making field assembly easy and less time-consuming.
  5. Full Charge Solar (Mesquite, TX) – This team is developing a fully collapsible, emission-free, cart-based solar array with a battery and inverter that requires little to no maintenance, and provides electricity throughout the day while charging the battery to provide electricity at night. It can serve emergency situations when power is not available and has a grid-tie capability for non-emergency situations to offset electricity costs.
  6. Fundusol (Stanford, CA) –This team is developing a software solution that assists farmers in adopting solar energy. The platform will help to design the best system for their farm by modeling multiple factors to predict the performance of the agrivoltaic system on each farm’s crop and/or livestock. 
  7. Modular Microgrids (Mount Joy, PA) – This team is developing a solar-plus-battery microgrid for construction sites and modular homes and offices. It is aimed at replacing diesel generators often used at construction projects, improving the air quality around sites.   
  8. NAS-LIION LLC (South Orange, NJ) – This team is developing a quick swab test to detect leakage from lithium batteries in nanogrid applications that will increase quality control and failure analysis. This technology can improve quality control standards in second-life batteries in solar applications.
  9. Recode Energy (Denver, CO) – This team is developing a software platform to help buyers navigate solar policies and incentives by developing personalization roadmaps and implementation tools for buildings. The platform will assess your portfolio for climate incentives, decode what those mean from a financial perspective, and guide you to a marketplace of resources, developers, and legal experts.
  10. Soltheos (Denver, CO) – This team is developing a low-cost thermal battery for residential customers. This system will be able to provide heat when solar power is unavailable or when electricity prices are higher, producing savings for the owner. 

Strengthening the Next Cohort of Innovators

The recipients of Power Up will go through a curriculum of support provided by the Power Connectors in the American-Made Network, covering topics such as market research, customer discovery, teaming, and start-up funding. The teams will have access to live, virtual collaborative sessions led by subject matter experts in the solar Industry and will also receive one-on-one mentorship throughout the duration of the support.

Towards the end of Power Up, teams will participate in an internal pitch competition and the winning team will receive passes to attend RE+ in September, the largest gathering of energy professionals in North America.

Congratulations to the Power Up winners!


Solar Prize Round 7 Ready! Contest Semifinalists Announced

Jan. 11, 2024, 8:25 a.m. PST by NREL Prize Administrator

The Solar Prize Round 7 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, four 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 7 are as follows: 

Photovoltaics (PV)

  • PowerMe (El Cerrito, CA) – This team is developing a 3D-printed solar carport for the commercial market to decrease safety risks associated with current carports and expand solar electric vehicle (EV) charging in low- and moderate-income communities. They will reduce costs compared to common solar carports with offsite construction, a wind-load reducing design, and automated 3D concrete printing.
  • Vatio (Palo Alto, CA) – This team is developing a plug-in solar kit that can be used in a regular home outlet to save residential homeowners money on their energy bills. This system will make residential solar affordable and accessible to customers locked out of the current solar market.  
  • Pavilion Solar (Miami, FL) – This team is developing a hurricane-resistant, structurally stable, accessible, and cost-effective solar carport. This innovation will increase residential solar adoption in hurricane-prone areas by providing a product that can endure storms and growing electricity needs.
  • Couillard Solar Foundation Team (Deerfield, WI) – This team is developing an aesthetically pleasing, weatherproof, wooden solar canopy for residential and public spaces to broaden solar adoption. Sales of this product will fund charitable solar programs to benefit underrepresented populations. JEDI Winner

Systems Integration

  • Addicted 2 Impact (Ladera Ranch, CA) – This team is developing modular plug-and-play, low-voltage direct current (DC) microgrids for rural and indigenous communities in the United States. By adding solar and storage, this system can quickly and affordably power homes without access to traditional grid and interconnection infrastructure. JEDI Winner
  • Buck Boost (Apex, NC) – This team is developing a two-stage, low-cost PV system architecture that combines wide-bandgap semiconductor-based compact DC-DC nanoconverters, at the panel level, with an optimized central inverter, also based on wide-bandgap devices. This new system design will achieve higher efficiencies, help prevent shading issues, and extend the lifetime of PV systems.
  • NC Solar Inverters (Cary, NC) – This team is developing a novel inverter design that leverages the high performance of silicon carbide technology but uses 40% less material, slashing inverter costs. This innovation will enable cost-effective, high-performance inverter technology to be manufactured in the United States.

Dual-Use Photovoltaics

  • ICoN Energy (Ithaca, NY) – This team is developing a compact power converter for trucks to utilize solar power for auxiliary systems, such as heating and cooling. This vehicle-integrated photovoltaics innovation will allow trucks to harness solar power from a solar panel installed on the truck roof and reduce truck emissions.
  • VL Offshore (Houston, TX) – This team is developing a rapidly deployable, floating offshore solar system that can move with the ocean’s waves, rather than a rigid structure resisting wave motion. This system, which is designed to withstand high waves and wind speeds, will supply energy to coastal and remote communities. 
  • Voltic Shipping (Whitney, TX) – This team is developing foldable, rotatable, and retractable solar panel systems to power canal, lake, and marine cargo vessels. This innovation will enable zero-emission, solar-powered cargo ships and help decarbonize the shipping industry.

Finance and Business Models

  • Fram Energy (San Francisco, CA) – This team is developing a platform to incentivize landlords to install rooftop solar by enabling both the renter and landlord to save money from a solar installation. This software helps the landlord select the best solar system for their property and distributes the benefits of solar to both the tenant and property owner, expanding renters’ access to solar energy.
  • EmpowerSun Solutions (Denver, CO) – This team is developing a platform for underserved communities that provides customized solar planning resources and connects landowners with pre-certified project partners. This innovation will help underserved communities, farmers, and tribal entities to effectively leverage their land for solar energy development. JEDI winner
  • 1Climate (New York City, NY) – This team is developing a solar regulatory platform for faster permitting by automating regulatory, permitting, contracting, and incentive filing processes. This will streamline the solar project development process, increase the ease of securing project financing, and monetize tax credits more reliably and efficiently. 
  • Wildgrid, Inc. (New York City, NY) – This team is developing a free solar financing education and planning tool to help users interested in going solar easily understand, personalize, and streamline their solar project and financing. This financial planning tool will make solar adoption a financial reality for users by finding available tax incentives and helping consumers apply for zero- to low-interest green loans.
  • Electra (Bellingham, WA) – This team is developing a smart digital network for solar panel recycling to reroute retired solar panels from landfills to reuse locations or recycling facilities. This platform will optimize the collection, logistics, and matchmaking of solar panel recycling leading to less waste and increased second-life opportunities. 

System Operations

  • Solar Unsoiled (Durham, NC) – This team is developing software for large-scale solar farms that provides optimized solar panel cleaning schedules based on a model that predicts daily soiling. This solution will increase system energy yield and reduce panel maintenance costs.
  • Reliable Autonomy (Basking Ridge, NJ) – This team is developing a software solution for homeowners with solar and second-life battery systems. This software integrates probabilistic solar forecasting and battery secondary life health diagnostics to maximize system integration efficiency and reduce costs for homeowners to adopt solar energy.
  • Keeping Solar Power Plants Green (Xenia, OH) – This team is developing a robotic arm to kill unwanted vegetation growing around mounting posts on solar farms with light that disrupts photosynthesis. This non-chemical treatment eliminates the need for expensive and hazardous herbicides, reducing operations and maintenance costs and increasing the safety and sustainability of solar farms.
  • Gritt Robotics (Belmont, CA) – This team is developing a solution combining robotics and artificial intelligence for automated construction of utility-scale solar. By converting off-the-shelf construction equipment into intelligent robots, this innovation will accelerate solar construction and improve worker health and safety.
  • Midwest Renewable Energy Association (Custer, WI) – This team is developing a portable, interactive training kit that provides affordable, hands-on solar education for communities and colleges. This solution offers relevant equipment, comprehensive concepts, and easy transport for real-world solar training to bridge the solar skills gap. JEDI Winner

New this year, prize administrators also handed out $10,000 awards to 10 teams through the Power-Up Contest. The teams were rewarded for their high-potential ideas that require further refinement; awardees will ideally use their cash award, along with support from American-Made Power Connectors the Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University and the University of Arizona Center for Innovation, to strengthen their innovations and business plans to be more competitive in future competitions.  

The Power Up Contest winners are as follows: 

  1. Fundusol (Stanford, CA)
  2. First Principle Energy (Sunnyvale, CA) 
  3. Recode Energy (Denver, CO) 
  4. Soltheos (Denver, CO) 
  5. Ark Power Systems (Lake Linden, MI) 
  6. NAS-LIION LLC (South Orange, NJ) 
  7. Exergi (Buffalo, NY) 
  8. Modular Microgrids (Mount Joy, PA) 
  9. Full Charge Solar (Mesquite, TX) 
  10. Amaterra Tech (Austin, TX)

Future 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.

Thank you to everyone who applied for Solar Prize Round 7. 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

Congratulations, again, to the Round 7 semifinalists!  


Don’t Miss Today’s Solar Prize Application Deadline!

Sept. 27, 2023, 7 a.m. PDT by NREL Prize Administrator

Is your team prepared for today’s Solar Prize Round 7 deadline? Submissions are due by 5 p.m. ET today, Sept. 27! 

To enter, competitors must identify a critical need in the solar industry, develop a transformative solution pathway, and make a plan to build a proof of concept for that solution. 

A complete submission package for the Ready! Contest should include the following items:

  • Submission form, including Connector Recognition Reward nominations
  • 90-second video (to be made public)
  • Cover page content
  • Narrative that answers four questions about the problem, solution, team, and plan (not to exceed 2,500 words)
  • Optional - JEDI Contest Submission (not to exceed 500 words)
  • One summary PowerPoint slide (to be made public)
  • Technical assistance request (to be made public)
  • Letters of commitment or support. 

All documents other than the video must be uploaded as a PDF. Make sure you closely review the rules for full details about what to include in each section.

Your submission may also include an entry into the optional Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Contest that describes how your organization is integrating JEDI principles into your innovation. And don’t forget to tell us about you, your team—and what gives you a competitive edge (view the Official Rules for complete submission requirements). 

Applications are due at 5 p.m. ET and late submissions will not be accepted. We highly recommend uploading your submission early to avoid any technical difficulties. You can also post a question in the HeroX Forum or email the prize team at  if you experience issues uploading your submission.  

Good luck! 


Solar Prize Round 7 Deadline Coming Up Next Week!

Sept. 22, 2023, 10:25 a.m. PDT by NREL Prize Administrator

If you’re applying for Solar Prize Round 7, make sure your application is submitted by Sept. 27, 5 p.m. ET! We highly encourage you to apply early to avoid technical difficulties. The submission portal closes at 5 pm ET sharp, so make sure you hit submit before then!

Make sure you’re familiar with the Official Rules and what’s expected of each submission. Get ready to tell us about a critical need in the solar industry, your solution for meeting that need, and how you plan to build a proof of concept for this solution. Remember, we’re looking for something that has the potential to be commercialized in 3 to 5 years

Would your solution help accelerate solar adoption in underserved communities? We encourage you to include an entry in the optional Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Contest that describes how your organization is integrating JEDI principles into your innovation. 

Looking for inspiration to get your submission over the finish line? Solar Prize alumni have shared their success stories and advice for competitors in a few short videos. Check them out now!

We strongly encourage competitors to engage the American-Made Network to gain help and support, especially Power Connectors who are available to help provide feedback and guidance on your submission. You can also stream the informational webinar to catch up on prize basics, post a question in the HeroX Forum, or email the prize team at .  

And don’t forget—even if your submission doesn’t win the Ready! Contest, it may be eligible for the Power Up Contest, which offers cash prizes and tailored business support to get your submission ready for a future prize. 

We look forward to seeing your innovative concepts! 


Forum8
Teams687
Entries
Resources
FAQ