The Energy Department today announced the five winners of the first round of the SunShot Catalyst prize competition, which were chosen out of 17 finalist start-ups that demonstrated their solar energy software solutions before a packed house and a panel of judges in San Francisco on May 14. Winners received $30,000 each to help advance their early-stage solutions toward commercialization.

The SunShot Catalyst prize program is designed to address the challenges to ubiquitous, affordable solar energy deployment by connecting American innovators to the tools, capabilities, data assets, and resources developed by the Energy Department and its national laboratories. The competition leverages each of these assets to launch cutting-edge solar companies and tackle time-sensitive market challenges. Here are the winners of the Catalyst prize competition and the challenge each is tackling:

  • Gridmates—leverages peer-to-peer energy sharing to combat energy poverty.
  • PVComplete—offers comprehensive solar project design software for solar salespeople that is compatible with the systems used by solar energy system engineers, roofers, and contractors.
  • Savenia Solar Ratings—quantifies the value of solar energy systems for homeowners and installers.
  • Solar Site Design—sells qualified solar energy development projects to solar equipment manufacturers, suppliers, engineering firms, and finance companies.
  • UtilityAPI—automates utility data acquisition for solar companies so they can accurately size solar energy systems for customers based on their previous electricity usage.

In addition to the $30,000 received during Demo Day, SunShot Catalyst prize winners are eligible to receive up to $70,000 each in future funding after successfully meeting product milestones agreed upon with the Energy Department and the panel of judges, with the goal of introducing their products to the marketplace in the coming months.

The diverse panel of judges from government and the energy- and venture-capital communities who evaluated the Catalyst competitors included:

  • Andrew Beebe—managing director, Obvious Ventures
  • Warren Doi—project manager, Energy Excelerator
  • Stephen Leist—managing partner and founder, Piedmont Partners Group Ventures, LLC
  • Minh Le—director, U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative
  • Farshad Samimi—product manager, Enphase Energy
  • Jake Saper—investor, Emergence Capital

At Demo Day, the SunShot Initiative also announced it is now accepting "problem statements" for the second round of the Catalyst prize competition, which outline challenges to the solar energy market. Participate in Catalyst by submitting problem statements online or voting on problem statement submissions from others until Friday, May 29.

The SunShot Initiative is a national, collaborative effort to drive down the cost of solar energy so that it is fully cost-competitive with traditional electricity sources by the end of the decade.