American-Made Solar Prize

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Solar Prize Framework and Support

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 solution 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 the first round was launched on June 7, 2018. The program is administered by the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). 

Entrepreneurial individuals and teams based in the United States will compete in a series of three progressive prize competitions—the Ready!, Set!, and Go! Contests—to develop 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 will be 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 will 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 reinforcing network effect 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 will work alongside NREL to implement parts of the program and secure additional resources and partners. Power Connectors will 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 have been 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
American-Made-Power-Connectors

Timeline

  • The Ready! Contest opened on June 7, 2018 and closed October 5, 2018. 
  • The Set! Contest begins in November. Submissions will be due in late January 2019, and finalists will be determined at a demo day in early February. This will mark the beginning of the final Go! Contest period. 
  • The final winners will be determined at a demo day event in spring 2019.

Learn More

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