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American-Made Solar Prize

The American-Made Solar Prize is a $3 million competition designed to revitalize solar manufacturing in the United States. Teams will be selected from a diverse applicant pool of entrepreneurial students, professors, small-business owners, company staffers, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Laboratories, and 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 Tuesday, September 24, 2019, Round 3 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 will participate in demonstration days, where they will pitch their ideas. At these national events, a panel of expert reviewers will evaluate competitors based on the quality of their solution and the progress made during the contest period.

On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, 20 teams representing 11 states were selected to receive $50,000 and move on to the next phase of the competition. Their concepts are grouped into two categories: photovoltaics (PV) and systems integration.

American-Made Solar Prize Round 3 Semifinalists

PHOTOVOLTAICS

Durable Antireflective and Self-Cleaning Glass
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Project Summary: This team’s wet-etching process creates nanostructures on the front of solar panel glass, providing enhanced antireflection, anti-soiling, and self-cleaning functions for PV panels. Corning, a company specializing in glass and other materials, will help the team develop the process and demonstrate the durability of the textured glass.

Pursuit Solar - More Power, Less Hassle
Location: Denver, NC
Project Summary: This team’s passive solar tracker enables panels to capture more solar energy without motors, controls, or external power. A small concentrating mirror system heats paraffin wax, which rotates the panels to track the sun when they’re properly positioned.

PV WaRD
Location: San Diego, CA
Project Summary: This team has developed a contactless imaging tool that detects water in solar modules. The tool can be used as both a static measurement device during the manufacturing process and a mobile measurement device for field monitoring.

Remotely Deployed Solar Arrays
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Project Summary: To provide options for energy production on infrequently used surfaces like driveways and parking lots, this team designed a portable system in which solar panels rise out of a storage container and retract when the land is needed for other uses.

Robotics Changing the Landscape for Solar Farms
Location: San Antonio, TX
Project Summary: This team is developing an autonomous electric lawnmower for utility-scale solar power plants that can maintain hundreds of acres a month without human interaction.

Simple-Assembly Storage Kit
Location: San Antonio, TX
Project Summary: This team is developing a “solar tree” kit that doesn’t need to go on a roof and is easy to install.

Solar for Snow
Location: Duluth, MN
Project Summary: This team is developing silicon solar panels designed to work in areas that get a lot of snow and ice. A frameless panel will shed snow naturally, and a heating element will melt snow and ice.

TrackerSled 
Location: Chicago, IL
Project Summary: This team is developing a mobile solar array for farms that uses tractors mounted on pontoon skis to tow two digitally controlled single-axis solar trackers. The trackers follow the sun’s movement to capture sunlight on solar panels. The array’s mobility will help farmers rotate their cash crop and cover crop fields, improving soil health, income, and power generation.

Transparent Polymer Barrier Films for PV
Location: Bristol, PA
Project Summary: This team will develop and commercialize advanced transparent back and front sheets for bifacial PV modules.

SYSTEMS INTEGRATION

Allbrand Solar Monitor
Location: Detroit, MI
Project Summary: This team is developing a universal monitor for residential PV systems that communicates with any microinverter, giving installers flexibility during installation or over the lifetime of the PV system.

Affordable Local Solar Storage via Utility Virtual Power Plants
Location: Parker, TX
Project Summary: This team is a veteran-owned business that’s developing a sealed-enclosure, whole-home transfer switch for inverters as a cheaper, simpler alternative to typical emergency power backup panels. The team will also implement standardized communication protocols so utilities can interact with the inverters.

Beyond Monitoring – Next Gen Software and Hardware
Location: Atlanta, GA
Project Summary: This team combines cost-effective hardware with secure, scalable software to deliver insights and increase operational efficiency for PV plants. This will result in predictive maintenance schedules that lower downtime, improve remote and automated diagnostics, and better model a plant’s lifetime energy yield.

Democratizing Solar with Artificial Intelligence (AI) Energy Management
Location: Houston, TX
Project Summary: This team is combining a thin-film solar panel and smart battery with AI software for home use. The software tracks a user’s production and storage data to optimize home energy bills.

Embedded, Multi-Function Maximum Power Point Tracker (MPPT) for Smart Modules
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Project Summary: This team is developing a chip that is both a direct-current converter and an MPPT that can be embedded in a module. It will have a microprocessor that enables power line communication, ensuring module compliance with code updates.

Evergrid: Keep Solar Flowing When the Grid Is Down
Location: Livermore, CA
Project Summary: This team developed a cost-effective system that turns a residential solar installation into a microgrid that can keep power on during a grid outage.

Inverter Health Scan
Location: San Jose, CA
Project Summary: This team developed a patented hardware/software system that monitors solar inverters while they’re operating to detect component deterioration as well as software control issues.

JuiceBox: Integrated Solar Electricity for Americans Transitioning out of Homelessness and Recovering from Natural Disasters
Location: Claremont, CA
Project Summary: This team is developing a small, lightweight, low-cost PV system with battery storage that does not require technical expertise to install, making it suitable for transitional homes and emergency management response.

Low-Cost Parallel-Connected DC Power Optimizer
Location: Blacksburg, VA
Project Summary: This team is developing a high-voltage, direct current (DC) power optimizer small enough to be built into a module junction box.

Powerfly: A Plug-and-Play Solar Monitoring Device
Location: Berkeley, CA
Project Summary: This team is developing a self-powered device for utility-scale PV plants that monitors communications by combining the data logger, cellular modem, and data plan.

SolarWall Power Tower 
Location: Buffalo, NY
Project Summary: This team is creating a hybrid energy tower using multiple renewable energy technologies, including solar-thermal, storage, PV, and wind.

Timeline

  • The Ready! Contest opened on Tuesday, September 24, 2019 and closed on December 10, 2019.
  • Semifinalists were announced on February 11, 2020.  
  • The Set! Contest will open in February 2020. Finalists will be determined at the demonstration day on March 27, 2020, at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. This will mark the beginning of the final Go! Contest period.

 Learn More

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