Tech Insights

Join the Race to Solar Power the Nation: DOE Launches $4M American-Made Solar Prize

June 30, 2023 by Shannon Cuthrell

The U.S. Department of Energy has opened applications for a new round of the multi-million dollar American-Made Solar Prize. 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently launched the application window for its seventh round of the American-Made Solar Prize, a business development incubator and $4 million funding program for startups looking to bring solar energy hardware and software to the market. 


The American-Made Solar Prize targets innovative technologies for the solar industry

The American-Made Solar Prize targets innovative technologies for the solar industry. Image used courtesy of DOE


Now in its fifth year since launching in 2018, the American-Made Solar Prize has awarded $19.6 million in cash prizes and support to 140 teams, with many going on to land additional investments after graduating. 

As they work through the three challenges of the program, competitors can win up to $700,000 in cash and $150,000 in technical support vouchers. Manufacturing access, technical services, and fundraising support are also available via the American-Made Network, a group of investors, mentors, incubators, and national laboratories. 

The prize involves three sub-contests with different objectives: Ready! (make a plan–20 semifinalists), Set! (design a proof of concept–ten finalists), and Go! (build a prototype and find a pilot partner–two winners). 


An overview of the three phases of the American-Made Solar Prize

An overview of the three phases of the American-Made Solar Prize. Image used courtesy of DOE


An additional pool of $200,000 in cash prizes will be extended to competitors opting to participate in the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Contest, a component introduced in the fifth round of the program that targets solar solutions addressing market barriers faced by underserved communities. 

Another new element in this year’s program is the Power-Up Contest, a track supporting diverse and early-stage teams with strong applications that weren’t selected in the Ready! Contest. The DOE plans to choose up to ten teams to split $100,000 and receive business development support for future competitions. 

Applications are live for the Ready! Contest; the deadline is Sept. 27. The program is open to entrepreneurs, small business owners, students and professors, national laboratory researchers, and other interested companies based in the U.S. 


6th Round Finalists Offer Wide Range of Tech

The sixth round launched last year and will wrap up once the finalists (now in the Go! phase) demonstrate their innovations at an event this September. Throughout the competition, participants could receive $3 million in cash prizes, support vouchers totaling $900,000, and another $200,000 in optional JEDI prizes. 


floating solar system

Noria Energy’s proof-of-concept floating solar system was installed earlier this year at a BASF manufacturing site in Alabama. Image used courtesy of Noria Energy


In April, ten teams across eight states were selected to advance to the final stage. Their solutions run the gamut from autonomous solar panel inspections to cable-free anchoring for floating solar systems to solutions for agrivoltaics. Here’s a summary of the projects: 

  • Edgeli: A startup in Maine with a cloud-based modeling platform that helps utilities site/size their solar energy projects via shared models, data, and mapping
  • Fliteworks: This New York-based company aims to lower the cost and frequency of solar site inspections with autonomous drones. 
  • Latimer Controls: A Colorado-based startup developing intelligent, utility-scale control systems enabling standalone dispatchable solar power
  • LEAF: An Ohio company with a computer-aided design plugin that automates the layout for solar sites, reducing time-consuming and costly manual design processes
  • NC Solar Inverters: Based in North Carolina and founded in 2022, this startup is building a low-cost solar inverter combining rugged switching devices with new control technologies to boost reliability and reduce thermal stress.
  • Noria Energy: A California-based firm developing autonomous cable-free solutions to replace conventional mooring and anchor systems in floating solar projects
  • ReJoule’s Second-Life Solar Team (a JEDI winner in the Set! contest): This California-based team offers a fast method to test the health of decommissioned EV batteries, which could then be used to store solar power to dispatch in peak demand. 
  • RUTE Foundation Systems (Set! JEDI winner): An Oregon-based startup with a lower-cost alternative to conventional agrivoltaic racking systems
  • Snow-Free Solar (Set! JEDI winner): This Ohio startup is developing a durable strip coating to help remove snow on the bottom edge of solar panels
  • Solesca: An Illinois-based team offering a utility-scale design platform to assist solar developers in selecting ideal project sites