American-Made Heliostat Prize

The American-Made Heliostat Prize is a $3 million competition designed to accelerate technology innovation through the design, development, and demonstration of key components of heliostats. Heliostats are devices that tilt mirrors to track the sun and reflect sunlight toward a receiver.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) is seeking to reduce the cost and improve the performance and reliability of heliostats by developing novel components, including heliostat support structures, mirror facets, and wireless control systems. Lowering the cost of heliostats supports the goals of achieving a decarbonized energy sector by 2035 and a net-zero economy by 2050 which will require the deployment of flexible and dispatchable generation and energy storage technologies, like concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) with thermal energy storage and high temperature process heat.

The Heliostat Prize builds on the research of the Heliostat Consortium and the DOE roadmap to expand production and deployment of heliostats in the United States.

Overview

The prize was open to individuals, private companies, and nonfederal government entities (such as states, counties, tribes, municipalities, and academic institutions). Competitors are encouraged to form diverse, multidisciplinary teams while developing their concepts.

Competitors will drive innovations from concept to prototype on an accelerated schedule—just short of 18 months—as they participate in escalating challenges.

  • Phase 1 “Concept” – Incentivize the creation of teams with credible concepts for technology supporting the advancement of heliostat technologies.
  • Phase 2 “Design” – Design and modeling of the components from Phase 1.
  • Phase 3 “Assess” – Build prototypes, perform initial testing of the components from Phase 2, and finalize design.

This prize contest offers a total of $3 million in cash prizes for innovations and credible concepts for technology supporting the advancement of heliostat technologies, with up to three winners. Competitors can win up to $580,000 in cash across the three phases of the prize contest.

Semifinalists

DOE selected nine semifinalists to receive cash prizes of $100,000 and advance to the Phase 2 Design contest.

Heliogen
Project Name: Testing & Deployment of Fully Wireless Heliostats
Location: Pasadena, CA
This team is building a physical network of thousands of wireless devices at a test site in Lancaster, CA to understand the viability and robustness of several wireless technologies. The study will include the testing and validation of various inexpensive, widely available wireless communication technologies.

Idealab-SwRI CSP Innovators
Project Name: Ultra Low-Cost Concrete Heliostat
Location: San Antonio, TX
This team has partnered with Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) to develop a heliostat constructed from precision‐cast concrete. This design is low‐profile to minimize wind loading when stowed, self-ballasting to allow for minimal installation labor and site prep, and is made of the lowest cost construction material available.

KVA Technologies
Project Name: Lightweight High Strength Martensitic Structures
Location: Borrego Springs, CA
This team aims to utilize lightweight, high-strength structures made with chromium steels containing no nickel to replace the standard steel heliostat structure. The improved design will reduce heliostat costs while increasing durability and strength.

Low-Profile Disc Tracker Genesis
Project Name: Low Profile Disc Tracker (LPDT)
Location: Miami Beach, FL
This team is developing a concept for heliostats that can stow low to the ground and has a single gear for two types of tracking. This novel design will simplify installation, lower transportation costs, and increase resilience to adverse weather conditions.

Mark Ayres Engineering
Project Name: Generic Heliostat Field Control System
Location: Los Angeles, CA
This team is developing a concept for a commercial, off-the-shelf heliostat field control program. The system will optimize all aspects of field operation including preheating, tracking, and stow.

Multiscale Systems
Project Name: Thermoplastic Composite Heliostat Structures
Location: Worcester, MA
This team is developing a novel heliostat facet utilizing thermoplastic composite in a sandwich-type design. The composite panels contain high-fiber content for added strength and protective additives for weatherability.

Quantum Optics Applied Research
Project Name: Retroreflectors for Closed-Loop Heliostat Feedback
Location: Naperville, IL
This team is developing a novel heat-tolerant quartz-glass retroreflector for use in automated, closed-loop, heliostat calibration. This reflector will enable simultaneous feedback to each facet within the plant’s field of heliostats.

Solar Dynamics
Project Name: DREAM: Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DFMA) Redesign for Economical American Manufacturing
Location: Broomfield, CO
This team is developing a DFMA optimized version of their novel SunRing™ heliostat that merges simple high-volume component manufacturing, advanced automotive joining technologies, and containerized automated assembly cells. By eliminating welding, tight part tolerances, and on-site manual labor, this next-generation SunRing™ will enable lower cost manufacturing of U.S. heliostats.

Stellenergy
Project Name: Heliopod II Mirror Facet 
Location: Albuquerque, NM
This team is developing a novel concept heliostat facet utilizing solar film and plastic structures. This novel facet structure will reduce weight and individual facet cost.

Timeline

  • DOE announced the prize on April 25, 2023.
  • Concept: Phase 1 opened on June 1, 2023. DOE announced semifinalists on November 16, 2023.
  • Design: Phase 2 opened in November 2023. DOE expects to announce finalists in May 2024.
  • Assess: Phase 3 will open in May 2024. DOE expects to announce winners in December 2024.

Additional Information

The American-Made Heliostat Prize is a part of the American-Made Challenges and is administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.