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Competitions, Challenges, and Industry Prizes

Join a competition to expand your knowledge and share your skills in the development and commercialization of advanced energy technologies. Competitions, prizes, and similar contests support the next generation of scientists and entrepreneurs.

Learn more about the events administered by NREL on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Middle School Car Competition

NREL's model car competition is a classroom-based, hands-on educational program for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. Student teams apply math, science, and creativity to construct and race solar and battery-powered model cars.

High School Science Bowl

NREL sponsors the annual Colorado Regional High School Science Bowl where teams are quizzed on a variety of math and science topics. The winning team receives an opportunity to compete for the national title in Washington, D.C.

Collegiate Competitions

These competitions provide hands-on learning for future scientists and researchers that complements coursework and curriculum at collegiate institutions worldwide. It provides an opportunity for students to challenge their creativity, passion, and skills to address real-world issues.

Collegiate Wind Competition

The Collegiate Wind Competition challenges interdisciplinary teams of undergraduate students from a variety of programs to offer unique solutions to a complex wind energy project using two multifaceted elements: (1) design, build, and test a wind turbine and (2) plan and financially analyze a wind plant.

CyberForce Competition

This DOE competition challenges college students to protect imagined businesses from simulated cyberattacks. Using critical-infrastructure-focused, real-world scenarios, the competition helps participants and volunteers increase their knowledge and understanding of cyber-physical threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences.

Geothermal Design Challenge

The Geothermal Design Challenge™ engages students from a broad spectrum of disciplines to develop innovative geothermal energy applications and gain real-world career skills as they prepare to enter the clean energy workforce. The challenge fosters understanding of geothermal energy, communicates the benefits of geothermal technologies, and ultimately helps overcome key nontechnical barriers to geothermal development.


JUMP (Join the discussion, Unveil innovation, Make connections, Promote tech-to-market) into STEM is an online building science competition for undergraduate and graduate students at U.S. colleges and universities. This initiative was launched to advance skills in STEM fields and encourage early-stage research in building energy efficiency.

Marine Energy Collegiate Competition

This competition challenges students across the U.S. to develop novel, market-ready, cutting-edge marine energy technologies and solutions to address some of the most pressing challenges in the expanding blue economy. Participants develop hands-on skills that set them apart from other graduates in the field.

Solar Decathlon

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon® is a collegiate competition, initiated in 2002, that has grown to showcase much more than solar technologies. The Solar Decathlon offers collegiate institutions two tracks to participate: an annual Design Challenge and a biennial Build Challenge.

Solar District Cup

The Solar District Cup challenges multidisciplinary student teams to design and model optimized distributed solar energy systems for a campus or urban district. The competition engages students across the engineering, urban planning, and finance disciplines to reimagine how energy is generated, managed, and used in a district.

American-Made Challenges

The American-Made Challenges incentivize the nation's entrepreneurs to reassert American leadership in the energy marketplace. These new challenges seek to lower the barriers U.S.-based innovators face in reaching manufacturing scale by accelerating the cycles of learning from years to weeks. They create partnerships that connect entrepreneurs to the private sector and the network of DOE national laboratories across the nation.

FAST Commissioning for Pumped-Storage Hydropower Prize

The Furthering Advancements to Shorten Time (FAST) Commissioning for Pumped-Storage Hydropower (PSH) Prize aims to attract ideas to reduce the time, cost, and risk required to commission PSH projects. Today's electricity system is changing rapidly and hydropower and PSH have an essential role in contributing to the resilience, reliability, and affordability of the U.S. power system.

Fish Protection Prize

The Fish Protection Prize is designed to generate innovative methods for keeping fish out of water diversions and dam intakes. Innovators compete for $700,000 of combined cash prizes and voucher support. As many as three winners will be selected.

Geothermal Manufacturing Prize

The Geothermal Prize is a first-of-its-kind competition designed to spur innovation and address the manufacturing challenges of operating in geothermal environments. This prize further supports the ability of the geothermal industry to reach the target of 60 GWe of geothermal capacity by 2050 as outlined in the recently released GeoVision study.

Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize

The Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize is designed to motivate American innovators to develop and demonstrate profitable business and technology strategies to achieve a lithium-ion battery recovery rate of 90%. The aim is to have an end-to-end solution—one that moves spent lithium-ion batteries from consumers to recyclers. The prize will award $5.5 million to participants across three phases over approximately three years.

Powering the Blue Economy: Ocean Observing Prize

The Powering the Blue Economy™: Ocean Observing Prize seeks innovators to integrate marine renewable energy with ocean observation platforms. Innovators will have the chance to revolutionize our capability to collect the data needed to understand, map, and monitor the ocean.

Solar Prize

Two rounds of the American-Made Solar Prize are currently underway—each a $3 million prize competition designed to revitalize U.S. solar manufacturing. Teams advance through a series of contests with the help of a diverse and powerful support network that leverages national laboratories, energy incubators, and other resources across the country.

Water Resource Recovery Prize

The Water Resource Recovery Prize is a $1 million two-phased competition designed to increase resource recovery from municipal wastewater treatment plants across the U.S. DOE seeks novel, systems-based solutions from multidisciplinary teams to stimulate resource recovery and implement strategies at small- to medium-sized Water Resource Recovery Facilities (with flows up to 50 million gallons per day).

Waves to Water Prize

The Waves to Water Prize is a four-stage, $2.5 million contest to accelerate technology innovation in wave-energy-powered desalination systems. These technologies hold the potential to deliver clean water to communities for disaster relief purposes and to remote communities around the globe.