American-Made Solar Prize

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 pitched 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 designed 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. 

On April 9, 2021, 10 finalists representing 8 states were announced at a live virtual event. Each team received $100,000 in cash plus $75,000 in vouchers redeemable at the National Laboratories and other partner fabrication facilities.

American-Made Solar Prize Round 4 Finalists and Semifinalists

CONCENTRATING SOLAR-THERMAL POWER

AeroShield Materials (Finalist)
Location: Hyde Park, 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.

Hawai’i Innovation Laboratory (Finalist)
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. 

Solar AirWall
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.

PHOTOVOLTAICS

Cool Tech Solar (Finalist)
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.

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.

Energy for All (Finalist)
Location: Elkridge, 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.

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.

NanoSpray (Finalist)
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.

Pellucere Technologies (Finalist)
Location: Houston, TX
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.

Rocking Solar Tracker (Finalist)
Location: Monroe, 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.

Superclean Glass (Finalist)
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.

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.

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 R&D Lab (Finalist)
Location: Petaluma, CA
Project Summary: This team is designing a residential metal roofing product to make solar roofs more aesthetically pleasing. It will match the color of the roof to the solar panels, increase the speed of installation, and match the lifespans of the solar and roof components.

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 (Finalist)
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Project Summary: This team has developed a rooftop solar-canopy racking system that avoids roof penetrations and can increase the system size to make it suitable for multi-family buildings.

SYSTEMS INTEGRATION

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.

Timeline

  • The Ready! Contest opened on July 9, 2020. Semifinalists were announced on December 4, 2020.
  • The Set! Contest opened on December 4, 2020. Finalists were announced on April 9, 2021.
  • The Go! Contest opened on April 9, 2021. The winners will be determined at the final demo day in September 2021.

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.