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 July 9, 2020, DOE launched Round 4 of the American-Made Solar Prize. In the first phase of the competition, entrepreneurial individuals and teams pitch an innovative idea that addresses a critical need in the solar industry and identify market demand for it. Those selected to advance to the second phase will design a proof of concept. In the third and final phase, selected individuals and teams will develop early-stage prototypes for industry testing.
On December 4, 2020, 20 teams representing 12 states were selected to receive $50,000 and advance to the next phase of the competition. Their concepts are grouped into three categories: concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP), photovoltaics (PV), and systems integration.
American-Made Solar Prize Round 4 Semifinalists
CONCENTRATING SOLAR-THERMAL POWER
Aerogel-Insulated Solar Collector for Process Heat
Location: Boston, MA
Project Summary: This team is developing a flat-plate solar-thermal energy collector system that operates at more than 150 degrees Celsius with efficiencies greater than 60%. Transparent aerogel insulation enables this performance, minimizes heat loss, allows for simpler receiver design, and reduces cost.
Room-Temperature Metal Coating for CSP Mirror
Location: Honolulu, HI
Project Summary: This team’s room-temperature liquid metal alloy makes highly reflective films targeted for use in CSP parabolic troughs for industrial heat applications. Their process uses spray coating, which is easier and less expensive than existing methods for making mirrors.
Location: Merritt Island, FL
Project Summary: This team is developing a low-cost, passive solar air heater made from plastic and post-consumer resins instead of metal. The Solar AirWall can convert sunlight to heat at over 60% efficiency, even in low light and windy conditions.
Boosting Energy Yield from Dusty Solar Panels
Location: Stony Brook, NY
Project Summary: This team’s self-cleaning technology uses an electro-dynamic shield to repel dust particles from solar panels. Creating a strong electric field can save up to 98% of PV energy loss caused by dust.
Cost-Effective Eco-Friendly PV Recycling
Location: Austin, TX
Project Summary: This team’s solar panel waste-recycling program aims to maximize the recovery of pure metals from end-of-life solar panels, using an electrochemical-hydrothermal recycling method instead of high temperatures and burning waste gases.
Integrated Solar Power and Insulated Wall System
Location: Easthampton, MA
Project Summary: This team’s SolaBlock wall system embeds a PV panel in a cinderblock foe solar-integrated building solutions. The system also enables the PV module to operate at a cooler temperature, intended for greater efficiency and durability relative to conventional modules.
Lightfoot – Solar-Powered Vehicles
Location: San Francisco, CA
Project Summary: This team’s lightweight, self-charging, solar-powered vehicle has 40–50 miles of range and speeds of 20–35 miles per hour. A built-in solar panel charges the vehicle, eliminating collection and charging challenges associated with scooters, e-bikes, and other popular micro-mobility solutions.
More Power, Less Dirt
Location: Corvallis, OR
Project Summary: This team’s silica shield’s nanostructure prevents the buildup of dirt and other particulates on solar panels to increase energy yield. By developing a robotic surface treatment and coating application process, the team can provide the shield as a retrofit solution.
NanoSpray: Low-Cost Solutions for Back Contacts
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Project Summary: This team is developing a highly conductive, spray-coated back contact for cadmium telluride solar panels, to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
Next-Gen Solar Roofing Product Collaboration
Location: Highland, NY
Project Summary: SunTegra and CertainTeed are partnering to develop a next-generation solar roofing product that will improve aesthetics, lower cost, and simplify installation and maintenance of solar shingles.
Rocking Solar Tracker
Location: Mason, OH
Project Summary: This tracker system is designed to reduce a PV system’s weight and number of required roof penetrations, so that more commercial and industrial rooftops can host a PV system. This system tracks the sun using a rocking motion, like a rocking chair, eliminating bearings and hinges from the support frame that require roof penetrations.
Roofing for the Sol
Location: Petaluma, CA
Project Summary: This team’s residential roofing product integrates solar with metal shingles to make solar roofs more aesthetically pleasing. This product also will match the lifespans of the solar and roof components, to reduce lifetime system costs and labor.
Saving Solar Power
Location: Columbia, MD
Project Summary: This cell-level battery management and reconditioning device decreases battery degradation and extends the life of new and recycled batteries by up to 30%. This improves the lifetime, performance, and cost of PV storage systems and enables repurposing of used batteries.
Self-Cleaning Solar Power
Location: Boston, MA
Project Summary: This team is developing an electro-dynamic shield layer that can be placed on the glass of solar panels to prevent the accumulation of dust and dirt. This is particularly impactful in dry desert regions, where soiling can greatly reduce solar energy production.
Solar Panel with Heatsink
Location: North Oaks, MN
Project Summary: This team is creating a solar panel with a nano-textured heatsink. The heatsink’s structure increases the surface area of the back of the solar panel, helping the panel dissipate heat and lowering its peak operating temperature. The lower temperature may make the solar panel last longer.
Stable and Scalable Perovskite Solar Cells
Location: West Lafayette, IN
Project Summary: This team, based at Purdue University, is improving the stability of perovskite materials. Addressing the chemical stability of perovskites will greatly accelerate the commercialization of perovskite PV technology.
The Mighty Power System
Location: Monmouth County, NJ
Project Summary: This team is developing a plug-and-play system comprised of a portable solar array and a battery backup unit. The Mighty Power System is designed to be assembled into large power-generating arrays that can be quickly broken down and redeployed in emergencies to provide instant power.
Urban Energy Solar Canopy
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Project Summary: This team has developed a rooftop solar-canopy racking system that avoids roof penetrations and maximizes the energy yield benefits by using bifacial modules. This application is targeted for multi-family buildings, which often do not have the roof space to accommodate existing solar solutions.
Artificial Intelligence Enabled Battery-Less Solar Hybrid Inverter
Location: San Jose, CA
Project Summary: This inverter seamlessly switches between grid-following mode and grid-forming mode in the event of a power interruption, allowing it to establish a temporary microgrid that keeps power flowing from on-site solar without needing on-site batteries.
Harnessing the Sun Using Medium Voltage Silicon Carbide (SiC) Power Devices
Location: Newtonville, NY
Project Summary: This team is developing a new, high-power (greater than 6.5 kilovolts), SiC semiconductor device that will enable the direct connection of PV to the medium-voltage grid through solid-state transformers. This will reduce the cost of interconnecting solar installations to the grid and expand U.S. leadership in advanced power electronics manufacturing.
- The Ready! Contest opened on July 9, 2020. Semifinalists were announced on December 4, 2020.
- The Set! Contest opened on December 4, 2020. Finalists will be determined at a demo day on April 8, 2021.
- The Go! Contest opens on April 9, 2021. The winners will be determined at the final demo day in September 2021.
- Register to compete in the Solar Prize.
- Join the American-Made Network.
- Download the rules for the prize competition.
- Download the American-Made Solar Prize Infographic.
- Download the American-Made Solar Prize Fact Sheet.
- For questions about the Solar Prize, email email@example.com.
- Read about the American-Made Solar Prize Round 1, which launched in June 2018.
- Read about the American-Made Solar Prize Round 2, which launched in March 2019.
- Read about the American-Made Solar Prize Round 3, which launched in September 2020.