menu

American-Made Challenges

 24,025

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:
Judging Closed
prize:
$4,200,000

This challenge is closed

more
Summary
Timeline
Updates18
Forum9
Teams712
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. During the Set! Contest, the Demo Day is a closed-door virtual event, while the Go! Contest is live, in-person Demo Day event. 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
Updates18

Challenge Updates

The Solar Prize Round 8 Now Open!

June 18, 2024, 1:51 p.m. PDT by NREL Prize Moderator

The latest round of the Solar Prize is now open. More than $4.2 million will be distributed to competitors over this three-phase competition designed to catalyze innovations in U.S. solar hardware and software technologies with the capability to be commercialized in 3 to 5 years. Learn more about the launch of the Solar Prize Round 8!

Do you have an innovative idea that can help transform the solar industry? We invite you to join the Solar Prize Round 8. Please note that if you have previously competed in the Solar Prize, you will need to apply with a new or significantly improved solution. See the Solar Prize Round 8 rules for more details.

Round 8 also offers complimentary application support through the Power Connectors, organizations that are available to teams applying to the Solar Prize. Find Power Connector contact details on HeroX.

As a competitor, you could win up to $650,000 in cash prizes, as well as up to $90,000 in technical support vouchers over the course of the prize’s three contests, Ready!, Set!, and Go!. Past winners have found these vouchers invaluable to connect them with the American-Made Network, comprising more than 475 members—including universities, facilities, incubators, investors, and national labs.

Teams can also compete in the optional Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Contest for additional cash awards. Those who advance solar in underserved communities could earn part of the $200,000 bonus prize pool! 

Similar to last year, teams whose submissions in the Ready! Contest that aren’t selected to advance but warrant further thought and development could win the Power Up Contest. Up to 10 teams may be selected to split a $100,000 prize pool and receive tailored business support from Power Connectors to advance their startup and idea. 

If you or anyone you know is interested in joining the ranks of Solar Prize competitors, follow the prize on HeroX to stay in the know about upcoming dates and deadlines!


Congratulations to the Power Up Pitch Competition Winner

May 30, 2024, 7 a.m. PDT by NREL Prize Moderator

Congratulations to the Solar Prize Round 7 Power Up pitch competition winner, Recode Energy from Denver, CO! 

Since the Power Up Contest winners were announced in January, the teams received tailored support and mentorship through a multi-week course hosted by Power Connectors Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University and University of Arizona Center for Innovation. Yesterday, the teams participating in the Power Up program competed in a virtual pitch competition, giving them the opportunity to demonstrate how they’ve advanced in the Power Up program and showcase their progress to a selection official. 

Recode Energy was selected as the winning team for their pitch to develop a software platform to help building owners navigate solar policies and incentives by developing personalized roadmaps and implementation tools for buildings. The platform will assess building portfolios for climate incentives and requirements across varying jurisdictions and guide building owners to a marketplace of resources, developers, and legal experts. 

The team earned complimentary passes to RE+, the largest clean energy industry conference in North America, happening this September in Anaheim, CA. 

Congratulations, again, to Recode Energy and all the other participants in the Power Up program! We look forward to seeing you continue to advance your innovations. 


Solar Prize Round 7 Finalists Announced

May 1, 2024, 10:13 a.m. PDT by NREL Prize Moderator

The Solar Prize Round 7 finalists have been selected! From a pool of 20 semifinalists, the U.S. Department of Energy has identified 10 finalist teams who will each receive $100,000 in cash prizes, plus $75,000 in technical support vouchers, and a spot in the third and final contest—the Go! Contest—to bring their solar deployment concepts closer to commercialization. 

Among these finalists, three teams also split $50,000 for their solutions that make solar energy technologies more accessible to underserved communities, as part of the optional Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Contest.

The 10 finalist teams moving on to the Go! Contest in Solar Prize Round 7 are: 

  1. 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.  
  2. 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. 
  3. EmpowerSun Solutions (Aurora, 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 the development of solar energy. JEDI Contest Winner
  4. Fram Energy (Newburgh, NY): This team is developing a platform to incentivize landlords to install solar by enabling both the renter and landlord to capture savings 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. JEDI Contest Winner
  5. Gridwave (Austin, TX): This team is developing a pre-assembled, modular solar carport for the commercial market to decrease costs and safety risks associated with current carports and expand solar electric vehicle (EV) charging. They will reduce costs compared to common solar carports by using offsite construction, a wind-load reducing design, and automated 3D concrete printing and precasting. 
  6. 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. 
  7. Illumination Solar Training (Jefferson, WI): This team is developing portable, interactive solar training carts that provide affordable, hands-on solar training 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 Contest Winner
  8. 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. 
  9. 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. 
  10. Solar Unsoiled (Durham, NC): This team is developing a 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. 

Congratulations to the finalist teams! The prize administrators look forward to seeing how your technologies advance in the Go! Contest. 

Future Opportunities

If you submitted an idea and were not chosen as a finalist, 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 competed in the 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 X.

Congratulations, again, to the Round 7 finalists!  


$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!


Forum9
Teams712
Entries
Resources
FAQ