Open Innovation Challenges

American-Made Solar Prize

Open Challenge: American-Made Solar Prize

American-Made Solar Prize


The competition has three progressive stages. Winners of each stage will be awarded cash prizes and support from national laboratories, startup accelerators, investors, manufacturers and other industry leaders who are part of the American-Made Solar Network. Details of the competition are outlined below.

Who Should Apply

Entrepreneurial individuals or teams as well as researchers in academic or industrial settings who are based or legally residing in the U.S. and have disruptive solutions targeting critical problems in the solar industry.



Compared to other renewable energy sources, solar energy has advantages like cheaper upfront cost, looser siting requirements, few moving parts in the assembly, and minimal O&M cost. By the end of September 2019, the US had deployed over 2 million solar PV systems, totaling about 71,300 MW of solar capacity, making the U.S. the second largest solar PV installer in the world. 

However, there are numerous obstacles facing the solar industry, such as solar power value deflation and grid reliability disruption. Innovation is the key to surmount these challenges. To incentivize and fund solar innovations targeting different aspects of the value chain,  the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) initiated the American-Made Solar Prize competition.

Possible Approaches 

All innovations that are relevant to the solar industry are eligible to apply. Some example topics are:


  • A more efficient solar cell/module, including those with unique integration properties (e.g. BIPV / roof tile) and/or new physical characteristics (flexible substrate, larger area panelization, etc.) 
  • An innovative solar cell backsheet, encapsulant or frame material


Balance of System

  • A novel racking and installation material, method or design
  • An innovative design for power electronics, including inverters, micro-inverters, and optimizers


Capital Equipment/Manufacturing

  • A more streamlined and automated solar manufacturing process, including both individual pieces of capital equipment offering significant capex / cost / performance improvement, as well as turnkey line designs



  • A software solution to securely integrate PV systems to the grid 
  • A model that can accurately predict day-ahead net load



  • A novel financial or risk management product directly applicable to US solar projects
  • A new approach to operations & maintenance and/or portfolio management


How To Apply

  1. Make a 90-second video describing your solution to a critical challenge related to the solar industry
  2. Answer a brief, four-question narrative and put together one slide summarizing your challenge and solution
  3. Write up a two-page technical assistance summary describing what kind of support you hope to receive from industry experts 
  4. Upload all the aforementioned materials to the application portal


If you need guidance on the formats and contents of the application materials, please refer to previous competitors’ submissions here.


The competition consists of three progressive stages: Ready!, Set!, and Go!.

  • After all the submissions are reviewed by judges, 20 competitors will be selected as winners of the Ready! contest. Each winner will be awarded $50,000 and advance their solutions into the Set! stage to refine them into viable proof-of-concept. 
  • 10 winners will be selected from the Set! Contest, and each winner will be awarded a $100,000 cash prize and $75,000 vouchers, which can be used to pay for product development, testing, and validation services at national laboratories and other facilities in the network. Winners at this stage will advance into the final Go! Contest to transform their proof-of-concepts into prototypes and perform pilot tests.
  • 2 teams will be selected as final winners during the Go! contest. Each winner will be awarded a $500,000 cash prize and up to $75,000 in vouchers.
Date Event Number of WinnersPrizes
July 9, 20204th American-Made Solar Prize kickoff//
December 3, 2020Ready! Contest winners announced 20$50,000 cash prize per winner
March 26, 2021Set! Contest winners announced 10$100,000 cash prize and
$75,000 vouchers per winner
September 21, 2021Go! Contest winners announced2$500,000 cash prize and
$75,000 vouchers per winner

More information about the contest can be found on the official American-Made Solar Prize rules document. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us

ADL Ventures is a Power Connector for NREL American Made Solar Prize and if you are an organization looking to participate as a Connector, please click here.

More solicitations...
American-Made Solar Prize

Rounds 1 through 4 of the Solar Prize sought to energize innovation in solar manufacturing and hardware. This year, Solar Prize Round 5 includes two separate tracks for hardware and software. Both the Hardware Track and Software Track follow the same three-contest structure but participants will compete for separate prizes.

American-Made Solar Prize

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are competitive funding opportunities provided by the Department of Energy to encourage U.S.-based small businesses to engage in high-risk, innovative research and technology development with the potential for future commercialization. Through SBIR/STTR, small businesses can receive up to $200,000 to engage in high-risk, innovative research and development with the potential for commercialization. Successful awardees can then receive up to $1.1 million for prototype development.