The American-Made Solar Prize is a $3 million competition designed to revitalize solar manufacturing in the United States by supporting entrepreneurs as they develop transformative technology ideas into concepts and then into early-stage prototypes ready for industry testing.
The first round of the competition ran from June 2018 to September 2019. Innovators from around the country competed in the first stage of the competition, the Ready! Contest, by identifying an impactful idea or solution that addresses a critical need in the solar industry and then developing a path to make their solution a reality. Twenty teams were selected as semifinalists by a panel of expert reviewers and received $50,000 each from a pool of $1 million.
The semifinalists moved on to the second phase of the competition, called the Set! Contest, to design a proof of concept and identify market demand for their solution. In June 2019, 10 teams were selected as finalists to receive $100,000 in funding and $75,000 in vouchers to use at the National Laboratories and elsewhere within the American-Made Network to advance their prototypes.
In the last phase of the competition, the Go! Contest, the finalists demonstrated their prototypes before a panel of expert judges at Solar Power International in September 2019. Two winners were selected and received $500,000 in cash and up to $75,000 in vouchers to use at the National Laboratories and qualified fabrication facilities in the United States. The winners are:
Phase3 Photovoltaics (Portland, OR) – Prefabricated Solar Systems: This team developed a solution that integrates solar into factory-built homes. By incorporating solar cells in the manufacturing process, they are able to provide their solar home solution at a substantially lower cost per watt as compared to traditional installation.
Solar Inventions (Atlanta, GA) – Configurable Current Cell: C3: This team created a new photovoltaic cell design that can help produce a more stable and reliable solar module. This team has effectively divided the cell into multiple sections without physically breaking it. This prevents hot spots and improves efficiency and safety.
Learn more about the American-Made Solar Prize.
American-Made Solar Prize Finalists and Semifinalists
BREK Electronics (Finalist)—High-Capacity 250 Kilowatt Silicon Carbide Solar String Inverter
Location: Boulder, CO
Project Summary: This power electronics startup aims to disrupt the solar inverter market through U.S. leadership in new material innovation.
Game Changer: 1500 Volt Solar Power Converter
Location: Charlotte, NC
Project Summary: This manufacturer will create a high-voltage power converter that could dramatically reduce costs and improve efficiency.
Solar Guardian (Finalist)—PV Connector
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Project Summary: This team will create a low-cost device that prevents electrical fires in photovoltaic modules, enabling safer and lower-cost solar system installations.
Solid-State Protective Relay & Monitoring System
Location: Austin, TX
Project Summary: This team will develop a solid-state protective relay device to identify, isolate, locate, and report dangerous faults in solar installations.
Imagen (Finalist)—Three-port Silicon Carbide–based High Frequency Power Conversion System
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Project Summary: This team will introduce a next-generation power electronics system that leverages U.S. leadership in new materials.
Solar SEED (Finalist)—Scalable Energy Empowerment Device
Location: New York, NY
Project Summary: This team will create innovative voltage-controller hardware to enable improved resiliency and a new market for solar generation.
Utility-Owned Battery and Inverter
Location: Wenatchee, WA
Project Summary: This team will create a utility-owned and -controlled battery-inverter hardware system that can be used for customer-sited backup power and storage.
Catalyst (Finalist)—First Step Solar
Location: Dearborn, MI
Project Summary: This team will develop innovative hardware that removes the complexity of current solar installation processes.
NEW APPLICATIONS AND PACKAGED PRODUCTS
Phase3 Photovoltaics (Finalist)—Prefabricated Solar Systems
Location: Portland, OR
Project Summary: This cross-functional effort seeks to establish the process for solar to be integrated into factory built homes.
Solar Waves: Conserving Water and Solar Energy
Location: Pleasant Hill, CA
Project Summary: This team aims to create autonomous self-forming floating solar power plants on bodies of water.
SUNSPOT Solar Electric Cooking System
Location: Germantown, MD
Project Summary: This team will create power controls for an integrated solar induction cooktop.
ARAYSTAYS: Nothing Clips Like Python Grips!
Location: Annapolis, MD
Project Summary: This team will develop innovative hardware that can be used for non-invasive, non-permanent rooftop solar fasteners.
FABRICATION AND DEPLOYMENT METHODS
Crystal Sonic (Finalist)—Acoustic Cleaving of Gallium Arsenide for Next Generation PV
Location: Tempe, AZ
Project Summary: This university team aims to create a new manufacturing method that can lower the cost of high-efficiency photovoltaic materials.
Invisible Metal Contacts for Solar Cells
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Project Summary: This team will create a new method to increase light collection in a solar cell, resulting in a new manufacturing process for higher-efficiency cells.
Location: Worcester, MA
Project Summary: This team will develop a solar module structure and manufacturing process that eliminates the need for roof penetrations.
Tandem PV (Finalist)—Perovskite + Silicon Tandem Product Prototype
Location: Morgan Hill, CA
Project Summary: This startup based with the Cyclotron Road cohort aims to create an innovative prototype of a high-efficiency photovoltaic tandem solar cell.
Translucent Solar Panel for Greenhouse Farming
Location: Vancouver, WA
Project Summary: This team will develop an innovative translucent photovoltaic module that is designed to boost energy output and better enable indoor vertical farming.
Solar Inventions (Finalist)—Configurable Current Cell: C3
Location: Atlanta, GA
Project Summary: This team will create a new approach to produce a new photovoltaic cell design that can help produce a more stable and reliable module.
LEGOs of Solar for Portable, Plug & Play Power
Location: Sioux Falls, SD
Project Summary: This team will develop a simplified solar module with integrated power electronics.
Quick Lift PV System
Location: Lowell, MA
Project Summary: This team will create novel racking hardware and module structure technology that can enable reliable wireless power connection for solar systems.
- The Ready! Contest opened on June 7, 2018, and closed on October 5, 2018. Semifinalists were announced on February 27, 2019.
- The Set! Contest closed on May 6, 2019, and finalists were determined at a demo day on June 6, 2019, marking the beginning of the final Go! Contest period.
- The final winners were selected at a demo-day event at Solar Power International on September 24, 2019.
- Round 2 of the American-Made Solar Prize was announced on March 22, 2019 and is ongoing.
- Round 3 of the Prize was announced on September 24, 2019.
- Visit the American-Made Solar Prize Round 1 webpage for details on the competition.
- Join the American-Made Network.
- Download the rules for the prize competition.
- Watch a recording of the July 11, 2018 webinar to learn more about the role of competitors in the Solar Prize.
- Watch a recording of the June 13, 2018 webinar that explains how the competition works and the various ways to participate.
- Download the American-Made Solar Prize Infographic.
- Download the American-Made Solar Prize Fact Sheet.
- Download the American-Made Solar Prize Executive Summary.
- For questions about the Solar Prize, email email@example.com.
The American-Made Solar Prize is a part of the American-Made Challenges and is administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.