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Solar Prize Framework and Support

The American-Made Solar Prize is a $3 million competition designed to revitalize solar manufacturing in the United States. Competitors may be entrepreneurial students, professors, small-business owners, company staffers, researchers at national laboratories, or anyone else based in the United States with a potentially marketable solar technology solution. This challenge requires competitors to make progress on a condensed timeline, form private-sector partnerships, and secure investments to make their ideas a reality.

On March 22, 2019, Round 2 of the American-Made Solar Prize was launched. To participate, competitors must identify a critical challenge related to American solar manufacturing competitiveness, create a proof of concept, and secure a partner to test a prototype. Competitors pitch their ideas at national demonstration day events, where a panel of expert reviewers evaluate the quality of their solution and the progress made during the contest period.

The second round of the Solar Prize ran concurrently with the first round, which ended September 24, 2019, at Solar Power International, where Round 3 of the Solar Prize was announced that day.

On March 30, 2020, 10 teams representing eight states were selected to receive $100,000 in cash, plus $75,000 in vouchers that can be redeemed at National Laboratories and other qualified partner facilities. These teams presented their innovations at a final demonstration day on August 27, 2020.

On August 28, 2020, two winning teams were announced at a live virtual event. Each team received $500,000 in cash and $75,000 in vouchers to use at the National Laboratories and other qualified fabrication facilities. The winners are: 

Resilient Power Systems (Georgetown, TX) — >15kV Power Router DC Coupled Solar + Storage: This team developed a hybrid inverter that enables interconnection between solar, storage, and other energy resources using a novel wide-bandgap technology platform. Their power router enables direct connection of these resources to the medium-voltage distribution grid, integrating transformers and inverters into a single unit. The integrated design provides a clear pathway for domestic manufacturing.

Resilient Power Router

SunFlex Solar (Tempe, AZ) — Back-Contacted Silicon Modules at the Cost of Passivated Emitter and Rear Contact: This team is replacing the high-cost copper backsheets on standard back-contacted silicon solar cells with aluminum, which costs less. They will use a high-speed laser to weld the aluminum backsheet to the silicon wafer. The team has secured a path to manufacture this technology domestically to produce high-efficiency, cost-competitive solar modules.

Sunflex Solar produced by www.livewildfilms.com

American-Made Solar Prize Round 2 Finalists and Semifinalists

PHOTOVOLTAICS

SunFlex Solar (Winner)—Back-Contacted Silicon Modules at the Cost of Passivated Emitter and Rear Contact
Location: Tempe, AZ
Project Summary: This Arizona State University team is replacing high-cost copper back-sheets used in standard back-contacted silicon cells with lower-cost aluminum.

Locally Grown Power
Location: Claremont, CA
Project Summary: This team is working to eliminate heating and degradation of cells in a module to reduce the impact of shading and soiling on power output, and design a replicable micro-factory model to produce modules.

Taka Solar (Finalist)—Advanced Bifacial Panel
Location: Mountain View, CA
Project Summary: Taka Solar will make an integrated solar panel and mount product for flat commercial rooftops that installs four times faster and weighs half as much as traditional installations.

Reliable, Low-Cost Passive Solar Tracker
Location: Oxon Hill, MD
Project Summary: This team is developing a low-cost, passive solar tracking system that consists coils made with two metals that move when exposed to sunlight.  

Vespr Solar (Finalist)—V-Clip: Module Attachment System
Location: Norman, OK
Project Summary: This team is building a solar module attachment system with a spring-based clip that locks to secure the module while providing electrical bonding and wire management capabilities, which simplifies and lowers the cost of installation.

Continuous Silicon Wafer Production (Finalist)
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Project Summary: This Carnegie Mellon University team is developing a low-cost manufacturing method for silicon wafers using a technique that involves melting the silicon, which floats as it solidifies, and slowly pulling a continuous, thin layer of it.

Terra Pave (Finalist)—Dirt Control, Bifacial Reflect, Roads Replacement
Location: Austin, TX
Project Summary: This team is creating an eco-friendly, cost-effective road coating that controls dust and dirt on high-traffic roads near solar field installations to reduce dirt cover on panels, which lowers energy output.

SolPavers (Finalist)—Invisible, Low-Cost Solar
Location: New Braunfels, TX
Project Summary: This team is transforming the patio paver into a sunlight-permeable, high-strength, composite concrete and resin paver that produces power and eliminates the need for additional mounting hardware. 

Asoleyo Architectural Solar (Finalist)—Decorative Solar Tiles
Location: Herndon, VA
Project Summary: This team is designing front contact patterns on solar cells for visually appealing solar surfaces.

Micro-Solar Manufacturing 
Location: Ashburn, VA
Project Summary: This team will develop a micro solar manufacturing system that cuts, assembles, and encapsulates small-scale solar panels for small electronics solutions. 

Sunlight-Shaping Solar Panels 
Location: Seattle, WA
Project Summary: This team is developing a cost-effective perovskite-based solar cell that will convert high-energy light photons into multiple lower energy photons, thereby increasing cell performance.

SYSTEMS INTEGRATION

Critical Network Infrastructure Support
Location: Tucson, AZ
Project Summary: In partnership with the Tucson Department of Transportation, this team is developing a solar-powered system that provides backup power for pedestrian walk signals and other traffic and communications infrastructure.

Zitara Battery Analytics
Location: Oakland, CA
Project Summary: This team is using deep learning to provide battery analytics for grid and residential-scale storage systems tied to solar plants, to improve system safety and longevity.

Solar-20
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Project Summary: This team is developing an integrated solar home system that will last 20 years without having to replace any components. 

Optimized Solar Storage Solution
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Project Summary: This team is developing a scalable residential battery management and charging system that enables efficient use of recycled automotive lithium-ion batteries coupled with a residential solar array.

Switched Source (Finalist)—Power Router for Distributing Solar in Communities
Location: Vestal, NY
Project Summary: This team is developing a device, and software to control it, that will enable higher penetration of solar on distribution feeders without costly infrastructure upgrades.

SIGUE: Smart Off-Grid PV Energy Management
Location: Hudson, OH
Project Summary: This team is developing a technology that smartly consumes energy produced by an off-grid (individual and microgrid) photovoltaic system and can be adapted to grid-connected homes.

Resilient Power Systems (Winner)—>15kV Power Router DC Coupled Solar + Storage
Location: Georgetown, TX
Project Summary: This team is developing a power router to connect a medium-scale solar plant directly to the medium-voltage grid, eliminating equipment that is typically required and reducing costs.

Orison (Finalist)—A Self-Installable Energy Storage System
Location: Cody, WY
Project Summary: Orison is developing an in-home energy storage unit that plugs into a standard wall outlet and can be charged using solar energy.

CONCENTRATING SOLAR-THERMAL POWER

CSP Trans-Critical Water Desalination 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Project Summary: This team is creating a high-temperature and -pressure trans-critical water purification system that uses heat from the sun to generate clean drinking water.

Timeline

  • The Ready! Contest opened on March 22, 2019, and closed on July 16, 2019. 
  • Semifinalists were announced on September 24, 2019.  
  • The Set! Contest closed on March 4, 2020. The finalists were determined at a virtual demo day on March 27 and announced on March 30, 2020, marking the beginning of the final Go! Contest period.
  • The winners were determined at a virtual demo day on August 27, 2020 and announced in a live virtual event on August 28, 2020.

Learn More

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