The American-Made Solar Prize (Solar Prize) is a $3 million prize competition designed to revitalize 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). The first round of the competition was announced on June 7, 2018, the second round was announced on March 22, 2019, and the third round was announced on September 24, 2019.
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.
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.
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:
- Elemental Excelerator – Honolulu, Hawaii
- Greentown Labs – Somerville, Massachusetts
- Nation of Makers – Silver Spring, Maryland
- Powerhouse – Oakland, California
- Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, Carnegie Mellon University – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- 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 demo 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 will be determined at a demonstration day in mid 2020.
- Round 3 of the American-Made Solar Prize opened on September 24, 2019. Semifinalists were announced on February 11, 2020. Finalists will be determined at a demonstration day on March 27, 2020, at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.
- Visit the American-Made Solar Prize website for details on the competition.
- Download the American-Made Solar Prize Fact Sheet.
- Download the American-Made Solar Prize Executive Summary.
- For questions about the Solar Prize, email firstname.lastname@example.org.