The American-Made Solar Prize is a multimillion-dollar 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.
On September 20, 2022, DOE announced five winners at the RE+ conference. DOE awarded two hardware track teams $500,000 each, two software track teams $200,000 each, and the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Prize winner $100,000:
- TECSI Solar Inc.: Solvari SR, The All-in-One Residential Solar Panel (El Sobrante, CA) – This team is developing a residential solar module that simplifies the ordering and installation process by combining the racking, flashing, hardware, and power electronics into a single product. TECSI’s all-in-one solar module eliminates the aluminum frame, reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of the installation.
- Origami Solar: Roll-Formed Steel Frames for Photovoltaic (PV) Modules (Bend, OR) – This team is developing steel PV module frames leveraging U.S.-made and formed steel. Compared to current frames made from imported aluminum, these frames lower the carbon emissions associated with making the frames and reduce PV system costs, while supporting a U.S.-based supply chain.
- SolarGrade: Elevated Asset Care (Carlsbad, CA) – This team is building a management platform to facilitate inspection, operations, and maintenance of PV systems leveraging field technician inputs and data analytics.
- illu: Illuminate Field Work for Distributed Solar (Sunnyvale, CA) – This team is building a mobile and desktop tool for operations and maintenance workflow management that will assist field technicians and simplify distributed solar maintenance.
- Midday Tech: Voluntary Carbon Reduction through Rooftop Solar (San Francisco, CA) – Winner of the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Prize, this team is building a platform to connect consumers who purchase voluntary carbon offsets with high-impact rooftop solar projects in underserved communities.
- Learn about the competition’s hardware track and software track.
- Check out the informational webinar recording from July 13, 2021
- Join the American-Made Network to support competitors as they bring new technologies to market.
- Learn about previous rounds of the American-Made Solar Prize.
- Download the American-Made Solar Prize Infographic (Rounds 1–3).
- For questions about the Solar Prize, email firstname.lastname@example.org.