American-Made Solar Prize Kicks Off Round 6

The Sixth Round of Competition Offers $4.1 Million in Prizes for Those Ready To Revolutionize the Solar Industry

June 15, 2022 | By Tiffany Plate | Contact media relations

Three people working on a piece of machinery in a lab.
The American-Made Solar Prize gets funding directly into the hands of solar innovators and connects them with expertise at national laboratories to advance their technologies. In this photo, a previous Solar Prize competitor works with researchers at NREL using the technical support voucher received during the competition. Photo by Werner Slocum, NREL

Round 6 of the American-Made Solar Prize—which focuses on encouraging solar innovation and supercharging the clean energy revolution—launched on June 15, this time with a $4.1 million prize pool up for grabs.

Established in early 2018, the Solar Prize has funded 120 teams with more than $15 million in prizes. The prize was originally designed to energize U.S. solar manufacturing through a three-contest structure, offering cash prizes, technical support vouchers, and connections to a diverse and powerful support network. Now in its sixth round, the competition has grown beyond just the manufacturing focus to incorporate all kinds of software and hardware technologies.

The competition is open to entrepreneurial individuals and teams based in the United States, who will progress through a series of three consecutive contests—the Ready!, Set!, and Go! Contests—developing new ideas, products, and solutions. As competitors move on through the competition, they receive increasing financial support and resources, accelerating the entrepreneurial process from years to months and reducing the overall time it takes to transform concepts into early-stage prototypes ready for industry testing.

“The Solar Prize creates a level playing field for entrepreneurs with great ideas by providing resources and support through the American-Made Network,” said Garrett Nilsen, acting director of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. “The last five rounds of the competition have really demonstrated how American innovators can think outside the box when it comes to devising new ways to propel the solar industry forward. We look forward to seeing another crop of promising ideas in the coming round.”

Round 5 of the Solar Prize, which launched in June 2021, is getting ready to wrap up the final contest this September. This round uniquely separated hardware and software innovations into two separate tracks. Round 6 of the Solar Prize will return to the competition’s original structure of having one singular cohort of competitors.

Some of the highlights from the ongoing fifth round include innovations such as geospatial software that optimally sites utility-scale solar to avoid challenging terrain; a portable electric appliance with an integrated solar PV system and electric vehicle charger; and a PV panel awning mounting system that could reduce the cost of residential solar for manufactured homes.

A funnel-shaped graphic showing a three-contest structure that starts big and progressively gets smaller.
The Solar Prize consists of three consecutive contests—the Ready!, Set!, and Go! Contests—in which competitors earn bigger cash prizes as they advance in each contest.

Shining a Light on Solar Equity

The launch of Round 6 begins with the Ready! Contest, in which interested teams will have until October 6 to prepare their submissions outlining their solar innovation. Competitors will continue refining their concepts throughout the contests, with the final winners being chosen after the Go! Contest in September 2023. 

Competing teams can also opt to participate in the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Contest—which focuses on advancing solar in underserved communities—for additional cash prizes throughout the competition. The JEDI Contest challenges entrepreneurs to consider addressing barriers to solar adoption in communities that traditionally lack access to renewable energy.

The addition of the JEDI Contest was introduced in Round 5’s Software Track. Some of the JEDI Contest winners in Round 5 are developing creative solutions for encouraging solar installations in underserved communities and directing surplus solar energy to neighborhoods in need. Round 6 offers the opportunity for all competitors to incorporate solar equity elements in their solutions.

“The JEDI Contest is an important new facet of the Solar Prize,” said Sarah Gomach, Solar Prize program lead at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “We want competitors to examine the energy and social justice impacts of their concepts and encourage them to ensure they’re thinking about all of the ways their innovations could positively impact both the environment and disadvantaged communities.” 

To learn more about the Solar Prize Round 6, join an informational webinar on July 13 at 2 p.m. ET. Prize administrators from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and U.S. Department of Energy will be on hand to answer questions and discuss best practices for prize submissions. 

Follow the Solar Prize Round 6 on HeroX, the official competition platform, for updates.

Tags: Solar,Photovoltaics,Entrepreneurs,News