Secretary Granholm Honors the People and Prizes Supercharging the Clean Energy Revolution Through Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Washington, D.C. — Today the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced two new competitions with a combined prize pool of nearly $7 million to rapidly advance innovations in geothermal and clean hydrogen technologies and awarded $4.5 million to competitors advancing solar energy technology innovations. Announced at the virtual Earth Day celebration hosted by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), these prizes are part of DOE’s American-Made Challenges program and are investments in our planet, enabling innovators to rapidly develop clean energy technologies that will make the U.S. grid more reliable and resilient.

Since the American-Made Challenges prize program launched in 2018 to support U.S. entrepreneurship and innovation in clean energy, DOE has awarded about $100 million in cash and incentives to competitors in more than 30 prizes spanning solar, water, geothermal, buildings, hydrogen, energy storage, transportation, technology transitions, manufacturing, and more.

“The American-Made program is designed to empower American ingenuity,” said Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm. “It offers financial support for innovators with big ideas that can move the global clean energy market and make a difference in the climate challenge. American-Made is a fast track to our clean energy economy—and all the new, good-paying, union jobs that will come with it.”

The new Geothermal Geophone Prize offers $3.65 million in incentives to develop high-temperature seismic sensors (geophones) that collect real-time data on subsurface changes during enhanced geothermal system (EGS) stimulations. By accelerating the use of EGS, which are manmade reservoirs that harness heat underground, DOE can dramatically expand geothermal energy to new geographic areas and help deliver a carbon-free electricity grid. 

The new $3.2 million Hydrogen Shot Incubator challenges innovators to demonstrate clean hydrogen production technologies that could help meet the Hydrogen Shot goal of $1 per kilogram of hydrogen in one decade. Hydrogen can enable zero or near-zero emissions in chemical and industrial processes, transportation, and integrated clean energy systems. Individuals and businesses that have not received federal funding are encouraged to apply to both prizes.

“DOE invests in our planet by investing in its people, supporting them as they develop and advance innovations that make Earth a healthier, more just place to live,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman. “Prize competitions are a fun, fast way to help these Clean Energy Champions develop climate solutions and join the clean energy workforce.”  

DOE also announced 20 finalists in the American-Made Solar Prize Round 5, and 6 semifinalists in the Solar Desalination Prize Round 2. These prizes are part of DOE’s broader effort to rapidly increase solar energy access and deployment to achieve the Biden-Harris administration’s decarbonization goals.

The Solar Prize is designed to support U.S. solar manufacturing and address challenges to rapid, equitable solar energy deployment by incentivizing hardware and software development. Ten Solar Prize finalists received $100,000 and a $75,000 technical assistance voucher to advance hardware innovations, and 10 others received $60,000 to advance software innovations. Three software track teams were also selected for a Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion prize and received $33,333. Learn about the finalists on the hardware track and the software track.

The Solar Desalination Prize is designed to accelerate the development of low-cost desalination systems that use solar-thermal power to produce clean water from salt water. The semifinalists received $250,000 and a $100,000 technical assistance voucher to help design their systems in the next phase of the competition..

At the event, DOE also provided updates to other EERE competitions in progress—including collegiate competitions preparing the next generation of innovators to join the clean energy workforce:

  • The $4.5 million CABLE Conductor Manufacturing Prize is now open to new competitors who want to enter Stage 2. This competition supports the development of affordable, manufacturable materials that conduct electricity more efficiently and upgrade the nation’s manufacturing and transportation infrastructures. Up to six competitors will win $200,000 in cash and $100,000 in technical support vouchers. There will be an informational webinar on May 17 at 3 p.m. ET, and submissions are due December 1.
  • Ten Phase One winners in the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize will soon be selected and receive $200,000 in cash each as they work to support entrepreneurship and innovation in communities historically underserved in climate and energy technology funding.
  • Winners of the Solar District Cup Class of 2022 will be announced next week. They’ll be teams of students in the engineering, urban planning, finance, and related disciplines who have designed and modeled distributed energy systems.
  • The collegiate Solar Decathlon Design Challenge wraps up this weekend as finalists present their solutions to a panel of industry experts. This challenge prepares the next generation of building professionals to design and build high-performance, low-carbon buildings powered by renewable energy.
  • Fifteen finalists in the AlgaePrize, a student competition encouraging participants to pursue ideas and solutions for real-world issues in the algae value chain. Finalist teams will pursue their proposed research projects and ultimately present their proposals to judges at NREL. Algae can fuel vehicles, recycle carbon dioxide, provide nutritious food, and create jobs.
  • Four collegiate competitions are accepting applications for 2023 competitions: the Hydropower Collegiate Competition, the Marine Energy Collegiate Competition, the Collegiate Wind Competition, and the Solar Decathlon

Through the American-Made Network—a group of more than 250 industry organizations, facilities, accelerators, universities, and national labs—competitors have access to mentoring, tools, resources, and the support they need to transform ideas into climate solutions in months rather than years to accelerate a more sustainable, inclusive, and just energy future.

Learn more about EERE and the American-Made Challenges.