DOE Launches $3M Competition To Spur U.S. Solar Manufacturing

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has launched a $3 million competition designed to boost domestic solar manufacturing.

Announced today by Rick Perry, secretary of the DOE, the American-Made Solar Prize will support entrepreneurs as they develop transformative ideas into concepts and then into early-stage prototypes ready for industry testing.

As explained by the DOE, individuals and teams will compete through a series of three successive prize contests designed to develop new products to be made in America. Competitors will have access to mentoring and other resources through a network of national labs, incubators, investors and industry stakeholders.

“The administration is fully committed to strengthening America’s manufacturing competitiveness,” says Perry. “The Solar Prize brings together the nation’s best-in-class research resources, unparalleled entrepreneurial support system and competitive American spirit to create new innovations primed for private investment.”

Supporting the initiative is Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, who says, “We share this administration’s desire for strong American solar manufacturing, and this prize competition is a good way to spur innovative ideas. The U.S. solar industry is a leader in entrepreneurship and ingenuity, and we support efforts like these that can pave the way to competitiveness for American companies.”

To win the final prize, according to the DOE, participants must identify an impactful solution that addresses critical challenges related to American solar competitiveness, create a proof of concept, and secure a committed partner to test a prototype. Competitors will also participate in demo days, during which they will pitch their idea to a team of expert reviewers, who will evaluate competitors based on the quality of their solution and the progress made during the contest period.

The $3 million in funding from the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) will be distributed through a series of three contests:

  • Ready! Contest (up to $50,000 prize per winner): Winners will be selected after identifying an impactful idea or solution addressing a critical need in America’s solar industry.
  • Set! Contest (up to $200,000 prize per winner): Competitors will work to substantially advance their technology solution toward a viable and promising proof of concept.
  • Go! Contest ($500,000 prize per winner): Competitors will work to substantially advance their solution from proof of concept to a refined prototype and find a partner to perform a pilot test of the prototype.

Participants in this program can be individuals, representatives of a company, university students or professors, small-business owners, or researchers at a national laboratory, as long as they are based in the U.S. Competitors can submit applications here by Oct. 5. In addition, through this online portal, the solar community can comment on ideas and connect with contestants.

The DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has partnered with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to administer the American-Made Solar Prize. The DOE is also holding an informational webinar on June 13.

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