The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced the 10 teams advancing to the final phase of the American-Made Solar Prize Round 3, the $3-million competition designed to incentivize the nation's entrepreneurs and strengthen domestic solar manufacturing. DOE also announced the launch of Round 4 of the Solar Prize, allowing more U.S. innovators to compete and potentially transform their ideas into prototypes ready for industry testing.
The American-Made Solar Prize brings new technologies to pre-commercial readiness in less than a year for more rapid entry into the marketplace. The 10 Round 3 finalists were selected from 20 teams that demonstrated their proof of concept to a panel of experts. Each finalist will receive $100,000 in cash and $75,000 in vouchers to use at the DOE National Labs or other qualified partner facilities to advance their innovation. This fall, the finalists will present their prototypes for a chance to win the grand prize of $500,000 in cash and another $75,000 in vouchers.
The teams represent eight states. Three teams are advancing solar photovoltaic technologies, and seven are focusing their solutions on how solar integrates with the grid. The projects are:
- Enertronics (Blacksburg, VA): This team is developing a high-voltage, direct current (DC) power optimizer small enough to be built into a module's junction box.
- infiniRel (Santa Cruz, CA): This team developed a patented hardware/software system that monitors solar inverters while they’re operating to detect component deterioration as well as software control issues.
- Maxout Renewables (Livermore, CA): This team developed a cost-effective system that turns a residential solar installation into a microgrid that can keep power on during a grid outage.
- Pursuit Solar (Denver, NC): This team’s passive solar tracker enables panels to capture more solar energy without motors, controls, or external power. A small concentrating mirror system heats paraffin wax, which rotates the panels to track the sun when they’re properly positioned.
- Renu Robotics (San Antonio, TX): This team is developing an autonomous electric lawnmower for utility-scale solar power plants that can maintain hundreds of acres a month without human interaction.
- Shine Technologies (Portland, OR): This team is developing a small, lightweight, low-cost PV system with battery storage that can be stockpiled and deployed for emergency disaster relief.
- TrackerSled (Chicago, IL): This team is developing a movable single-axis tracker solar array for farms that can be towed around rotating crop fields on its pontoon skis. The array’s mobility will help farmers rotate their cash crop and cover crop fields, improving soil health, income, and power generation.
- Uplift Solar (Las Vegas, NV): This team is developing a chip that is both a direct-current converter and a maximum power point tracker that can be embedded in a module. It will have a microprocessor that enables power line communication, ensuring module compliance with code updates.
- Verify Energy (Berkeley, CA): This team is developing a self-powered, easily installable cellular data gateway to extract PV plant performance data from commercial and industrial scale PV plants.
- Wattch (Atlanta, GA): This team combines cost-effective hardware with secure, scalable software to deliver insights and increase operational efficiency for commercial and industrial PV plants. This will result in predictive maintenance schedules that lower downtime, improve remote and automated diagnostics, and better model a plant’s lifetime energy yield.
Round 4 is open to new participants based in the United States, including individuals, representatives of a company, university students or professors, small-business owners, and researchers at National Laboratories. Anyone interested in competing should read the official rules and submit applications by Oct. 8, 2020.
For more information, read the original release from the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE).