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, national laboratory researchers, 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 secure investments to bring their ideas to life.

On June 15, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched Round 5 of the American-Made Solar Prize with a hardware track and a software track. 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.

Hardware track competitors can win up to $650,000 in cash and $150,000 in technical support vouchers redeemable at the DOE National Laboratories and other qualified fabrication facilities.

On December 7, 2021, 20 hardware track teams were selected to advance to the next phase of the competition and receive cash prizes of $50,000. Their concepts are grouped into three categories: photovoltaics (PV), systems integration, and concentrating solar-thermal power.

On April 22, 2022, 10 finalists were announced at a live, virtual event. Each team received cash prizes of $100,000 and $75,000 in vouchers to use at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Their concepts are grouped into two categories: PV and systems integration.

American-Made Solar Prize Round 5 Finalists and Semifinalists

Photovoltaics

Solvari SR, Simplifying Residential Solar to 1 SKU (Finalist)
Location: El Sobrante, CA
Project Summary: This solar panel designed for residential use simplifies the ordering and installation process by combining the racking, flashing, hardware, and power electronics into a single product.

3D Concrete Printed Anchors for Floating PV (Finalist)
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Project Summary:
This team is developing 3D-printed concrete gravity anchors that are manufactured on-site for floating solar panel installations. This allows for the production of highly optimized anchor designs for each solar system.

Integrated Greenhouse for Food and Clean Water
Location: East Lansing, MI
Project Summary: This team is developing an integrated greenhouse with a flat, transparent solar heater roof and a water treatment system. This integrated system uses heat absorbed from the solar thermal panels on the roof to generate clean water for use in the greenhouse.

Optimizing Landfill Solar Power Production and Return on Investment
Location: Derry, NH
Project Summary: This team is developing a photovoltaic module racking solution for use on capped landfills. Their ballasted racking system can be deployed on steep slopes and avoids puncturing the landfill’s protective cap.

Patina™: Solar that works in the shade
Location: San Mateo, CA
Project Summary: This team is developing a technology to reduce the impact of shading on the performance of solar panels. Reducing shading losses allows this technology to use previously wasted energy to increase total energy generation.

Portable Solar Carport With Integrated EV-Charger! (Finalist)
Location: Sarasota, FL
Project Summary:
This team's portable carport has an integrated solar PV system and electric vehicle charger and can be stored in a garage during periods of harsh weather. As a portable electric appliance, it can be taken with the owner when they move homes.

Rapid Deployment Hybrid Microgrid
Location: Nashville, TN
Project Summary: This team is developing a self-contained hybrid microgrid system. This system would combine solar arrays on accordion-style racking, batteries, inverters, and other components into a single container.

Roll-formed Steel Frames for PV Modules (Finalist)
Location: Bend, OR
Project Summary:
This team is developing steel PV module frames manufactured using a roll-forming process. Compared to current frames made from aluminum, these frames can reduce PV system costs due to cheaper materials and higher manufacturing speeds.

Saving Water with Combined Solar and Agriculture
Location: Scotts Valley, CA
Project Summary: This team’s flexible solar panels can be used in hoop houses, which cover agricultural crops to reduce water loss from evaporation. The solar panels have a technology that optimizes which parts of the solar spectrum are used for plant growth and power production.

Novel PV awning for factory-built homes (Finalist)
Location: Miami, FL
Project Summary: 
This team is developing an awning PV panel mounting system that can seamlessly integrate into the manufacturing process and distribution channels of the manufactured home industry. This could reduce the cost of residential solar for manufactured homes.

Solar Powered Cooling, Heating and Electricity
Location: San Diego, CA
Project Summary: This technology uses solar energy to simultaneously provide power for cooling, heating, and electricity. This is achieved through an integrated system that converts heat into energy for cooling with photovoltaic-thermal panels and refrigeration technology. 

Spectrum Shifting Nanocoating
Location: Hayward, CA
Project Summary: This nanoparticle coating can be applied to solar panels to increase efficiency by optimizing which parts of the solar light spectrum they absorb. The coating can also be applied to already installed solar panels.

Sun Deck Solar Electric Vehicle Charging Station (Finalist)
Location: Roswell, GA
Project Summary: This team is developing solar-powered electric vehicle charging station that utilizes a self-assembling design to reduce installation costs.

Wafer-Free Crystalline Silicon Solar Cells (Finalist)
Location: San Francisco, CA
Project Summary:
This team is developing a silicon solar cell that uses silicon particles instead of traditional silicon wafers. These particle-based cells have the potential to be much lower in cost compared to incumbent technologies and can be manufactured with a U.S. supply chain.

Systems Integration

Integrating on-site Solar with EV Charging (Finalist)
Location: Lahaina, HI
Project Summary:
This team is developing a plug-and-play energy management system that synchronizes on-site solar energy generation with electric vehicle charging. The goal is to charge electric vehicles from the locally produced solar power as much as possible and reduce the use of grid power during expensive peak hours

Power Electronics for the Next Generation of Photovoltaics
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Project Summary: This team is developing power electronics that can optimize the energy production of more complex next-generation photovoltaic devices, such as 4-terminal tandem solar cells.

Riding the Solar Curve (Finalist)
Location: Carlsbad, CA
Project Summary:
This team is developing an energy storage system that combines recycled electric vehicle batteries with a novel power conversion system and state-of-the-art battery controls. These battery controls enable the system to use different makes and models of electric vehicle batteries and can extend their useful lifetime as compared to traditional battery controls.

Solactivator: Economical Backup Power for Blackouts
Location: Fremont, CA
Project Summary: This solar backup power solution allows grid-tied residential solar systems to function during blackouts by using on-demand power sources like electric vehicle batteries, power stations, or generators. This device uses available solar power first to meet electricity demands to maximize backup power coming from clean energy sources.

SolarSCADA: Modular SCADA Specific to Solar (Finalist)
Location: Denver, CO
Project Summary:
This supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system combines all the sensors, calibration, communication, and data feeds needed to operate a solar energy system into standalone, ready-to-use packages. The SCADA system is low cost and quick to install, targeting the commercial and industrial solar sector.

Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power

Ten Thousand Splendid Suns
Location: Orinda, CA
Project Summary: This concentrating solar-thermal power collector technology uses nanoparticles to precisely concentrate sunlight onto a receiver. This would enable solar energy to provide heat to industries like steel or concrete manufacturing.

Timeline

  • The Ready! Contest opened on June 15, 2021. Semifinalists were announced December 7, 2021.
  • The Set! Contest opened December 7, 2021. Finalists were announced April 22, 2022.
  • The Go! Contest opened April 22, 2022. The winners will be determined at the final demo day in September 2022.

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.