American Made Solar Prize graphic.

The American-Made Solar Prize is a $5 million competition designed to support U.S. solar manufacturing and address challenges to rapid, equitable solar energy deployment by incentivizing hardware and software development. 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 quickly, form private-sector partnerships, and engage customers to bring their ideas to life.

On June 10, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched Round 5 of the American-Made Solar Prize, newly consisting of two tracks: a hardware track and a software track. As in previous rounds of the competition, the hardware track solicits hardware innovations that can be manufactured in the United States. The new software track solicits software innovations that will help address the non-hardware costs of solar, like customer acquisition, financing, and grid integration. 

The software track contains an optional Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Contest that runs parallel with every phase of the competition. Competitors have three opportunities to vie for additional cash prizes—up to $190,000—if their software solutions enable underserved communities to overcome systemic solar barriers and share in the societal benefits of solar deployment.

In the first phase of the Solar Prize, 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 design a hardware proof of concept  or a minimum viable software product. In the third and final phase, selected individuals and teams will develop early-stage hardware prototypes for industry testing or customer-validated software products.

On December 7, 2021, 40 teams (20 each for the hardware and software tracks) representing 16 states were selected to advance to the next phase of the competition and receive cash prizes of $50,000 for hardware track teams and $30,000 for software track teams. The software track semifinalists who also won the JEDI Contest at this stage each received an additional $12,500.

On April 22, 2022, 20 finalist teams (10 each for the hardware and software tracks) representing eight states were announced at a live, virtual event and advanced to the final stage of the competition. Hardware track teams received cash prizes of $100,000 and $75,000 in technical assistance. The software track finalists received cash prizes of $60,000. Three software track semifinalists also won the JEDI Contest and received an additional $33,333.

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