DOE announces $5 million American-Made Solar Prize and new entrepreneurial networking tool

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $5 million for the American-Made Solar Prize Round 5, a competition designed to accelerate the commercialization of products needed for widespread, equitable solar energy deployment and domestic manufacturing. DOE also announced a new tool that connects innovators with support from DOE’s national labs, business incubators and other entrepreneurial resources in the American-Made Network to advance their technologies.

“By fueling connections between the nation’s most creative and forward-thinking entrepreneurs, the 17 national labs and the broader DOE ecosystem, universities, and the private sector, we are catalyzing the best of American ingenuity and creating an innovation engine for America,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman. “This is how America will decarbonize the energy sector and lead the $23 trillion global clean energy market.”

The new tool uses artificial intelligence to expand and develop the American-Made Network’s capabilities, helping fast-track development cycles. This tool will lower barriers to market entry for entrepreneurs by matching innovators to the exact resources they need, right when they need them.

American-Made Solar Prize Round 5

For the first time, the American-Made Solar Prize will have two tracks — one for hardware innovations and one for software innovations — a recognition that both are needed to advance the solar industry. The software track will have a particular focus on enabling underserved communities to overcome systemic barriers to solar energy. To further incentivize this focus, competitors can win $300,000 in additional funds through a Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Contest. The two tracks of the competition will focus on hardware and software components separately, with the goal of enabling more entrepreneurs to compete in the solar space.

The hardware track builds on the previous four rounds of the Solar Prize by soliciting ideas for hardware products that can be manufactured in America. Over the course of the previous four rounds, the Solar Prize supported 80 teams with $11 million in cash prizes and $3.4 million in technical support. The Solar Prize Round 5 hardware track will support as many as 20 new teams, who will compete for up to $3 million in prizes as they advance their technologies with the support of the American-Made Network.

In the software track, DOE seeks software concepts that will help address the non-hardware costs of solar, like customer acquisition, financing, and grid integration. Software track competitors can receive up to $2 million in prizes, using advances in communications and information technologies to rethink how to solve solar deployment challenges.

To augment Round 5 and the JEDI Contest, NREL is launching a Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee to help attract, recruit, and support a broader, more diverse group of Solar Prize applicants.

To compete in the Solar Prize, apply by October 5.

The prize program and the American-Made Network are funded by DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and are administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

For details about the Solar Prize Round 5, register here for an informational webinar on July 13 at 3 p.m. ET.

News item from DOE

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