Solar Prize Framework and Support

The Solar Prize Round 5 is now open through October 5, 2021Learn more and apply!

The American-Made Solar Prize (Solar Prize) is a multi-million-dollar prize competition designed to energize U.S. solar manufacturing through a series of contests and the development of a diverse and powerful support network that leverages national laboratories, energy incubators, and other resources across the country. The competition enables the rapid development of innovative solar solutions by providing resources and support to entrepreneurs as they transform concepts into early-stage prototypes ready for industry testing. By tapping into the nation’s unparalleled innovation ecosystem and America’s competitive spirit, this competition helps to reenergize American energy innovation and supports the growth of U.S. manufacturing.

The program was announced on January 24, 2018 and is administered by the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). 

Entrepreneurial individuals and teams based in the United States can compete, progressing through a series of three connected contests—the Ready!, Set!, and Go! Contests—developing new ideas, products, and solutions. As competitors progress through the contests, they receive more financial support and resources, accelerating the cycles of learning from months to weeks and reducing the overall time it takes to bring products to the market.


Video Url
On Dec. 4, 2020, Maxout Renewables and Wattch Inc. were named winners of the American-Made Solar Prize Round 3. Take a look at their journey through the competition to see where they started and how they grew.
U.S. Department of Energy

American-Made Network

Competitors are supported by the American-Made Network, which is comprised of national labs, incubators, investors, and seasoned industry mentors. The institutions and people that help competitors navigate the innovation process are called Connectors and provide competitors technical insight, product validation, and strategic support throughout the competition. Connectors can win Recognition Rewards for recruiting, mentoring, and advancing Solar Prize competitors.

This program takes a resource-multiplying approach that creates a foundation and reinforces a network that encourages rapid manufacturing, supports future business growth, and strengthens the critical connections needed for product commercialization.

Power Connectors

NREL selected five organizations to receive a $100,000 contract to help ensure the success of the Solar Prize. Called Power Connectors, these organizations are a core group of Connectors that work alongside NREL to implement parts of the program and secure additional resources and partners. Power Connectors work alongside NREL to build a sustainable network of experts to support competitors, recruit new competitors, grow private funding instruments, and develop long-term plans for the program. Two organizations will host demonstration days after the Set! and Go! Contests, bringing together competitors and a panel of judges, potential customers and investors, key stakeholders, and other industry leaders that can help competitors advance their solutions.

The following organizations were selected as Power Connectors:

  • ADL Ventures - San Francisco, CA
  • Nation of Makers - Silver Spring, MD
  • University of Arizona Center for Innovation - Tucson, AZ
  • Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, Carnegie Mellon University - Pittsburgh, PA
  • Zpryme - Austin, TX
American-Made Challenges Connector Map


  • Round 1 of the American-Made Solar Prize opened on June 7, 2018. Semifinalists were announced on February 27, 2019. The final winners were selected at a demonstration day event in September 2019.
  • Round 2 of the American-Made Solar Prize opened on March 22, 2019. Semifinalists were announced on September 24, 2019. Final winners were selected at a virtual demonstration day in August 2020.
  • Round 3 of the American-Made Solar Prize opened on September 24, 2019. Semifinalists were announced on February 11, 2020. Finalists were determined at a virtual demonstration day on July 9, 2020. Final winners were selected at a virtual demonstration day in December 2020.
  • Round 4 of the American-Made Solar Prize opened on July 9, 2020. Semifinalists were announced on December 4, 2020. Finalists were announced on April 9, 2021. Final winners were selected at a virtual demonstration day on September 16, 2021.
  • Round 5 of the American-Made Solar Prize opened on June 10, 2021.

Learn More

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

American-Made Solar Prize R1-4 Infographic