DOE offers $5M in prize money for American-made solar competition

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has begun accepting submissions for its American-Made Solar Prize, a competition with a total of $5 million in awards available. The contest seeks both hardware and software that catalyze U.S. manufacturing and address challenges to rapid, equitable solar energy deployment.

In conjunction with this program, DOE also launched the American-Made Network Innovation Engine, a tool that it said is intended to form a bridge between creative entrepreneurs and “connectors.”

It said that connectors are organizations like incubators, universities, think tanks, industry groups, and other organizations that will recruit competitors, help them develop their project, provide tools, and raise funding. The hardware track offers $260,000 in recognition awards for connectors who support innovators, and the software track offers $85,000.

The software track is a new feature in the competition, and seeks to address non-hardware costs of solar, like customer acquisition, financing, and grid integration.

Software competitors have the opportunity for an optional Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) contest. Up to $190,000 in prizes may be awarded to approaches that empower underserved communities, overcome solar barriers, and equitably share in the benefits of solar.

The project runs in three phases: First, pitch an innovative idea that addresses a critical need in the solar industry and identify market demand for it. Second, design a hardware proof of concept or minimum viable software product. Third, contestants will develop early-stage hardware prototypes or customer-validated software products.

A July 13 informational webinar will be held and the deadline to enter is August 31.

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