The solar industry is on the move—expanding into new states and creating new business opportunities across the country. In fact, the Energy Information Administration estimates that by 2050 solar could be 15% of total U.S. electricity generation.
As a part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) all-of-the-above strategy, since March 2018 more than $400 million has been committed to new solar projects, reflecting the administration’s continued commitment to lower solar electricity costs.
There’s still more work we can do to lower costs and securely integrate more solar with the grid—all with new technologies developed and made within our borders. For years, technologies that the United States has pioneered have been produced abroad and imported at much lower costs. New innovations can help leapfrog the status quo, making what’s currently being produced and imported obsolete.
One way the administration is reinvigorating solar manufacturing is through the American-Made Solar Prize—a $3 million prize competition designed to leverage American ingenuity and competitive spirit to accelerate the development of new solar solutions. The Solar Prize pairs innovators with private sector entities, national labs, and other industry experts to take great ideas and make them into prototypes ready for customer testing.
This week, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy announced that 20 teams from 15 states will each receive a $50,000 cash prize and advance to the second stage of the competition where they will work alongside the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the American Made Network to further develop their ideas. Teams will tackle a variety of solar challenges, including the development of new photovoltaic (PV) cell designs that can increase efficiency and improve manufacturability, new devices that ease PV installation and use low-cost silicon carbide, and new hardware and module designs that enable new applications for PV. The range of solar innovations is impressive but in the end, the best ideas and collaborators will take home the grand prize—a $500,000 cash prize and perhaps a new, American-Made business too.
These innovators are risking their time, reputation, and capital to change the solar industry. With the support of this program, we’ll speed the time it takes to make relevant, viable solutions that can help to reestablish the United States’ competitive edge in every part of the solar supply chain, including manufacturing.