DOE offering $5 million for solar power innovations

Department seeks to help solar entrepreneurs reach the prototype stage faster in global race to decarbonize the energy sector.

The U.S. Energy Department has announced details of its latest round of awards in its American-Made Solar Prize that aims to revitalize the U.S. solar industry through a series of contests. About $5 million will be up for grabs in this fifth round of the competion, which was first announced in 2018.

The department on Thursday also made availalbe an American-Made Network that seeks to connect entrepreneurs with support from the department’s national labs, business incubators and other technology resources. The goal is to kick-start entrepreneurs as they move from concept to early-stage prototypes, according to a department release.

“This is how America will decarbonize the energy sector and lead the $23 trillion global clean energy market,” said Kelly Speakes-Backman, acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Investors, consumers and lawmakers are increasingly interested in trimming the nation’s carbon footprint and President Joe Biden has pledged to decarbonize the power sector — today it’s most carbon-intensive sector — by 2035.

Fueling connections between entrepreneurs, the 17 national labs, universities, and the private sector will catalyze “the best of American ingenuity and creating an innovation engine for America,” Speakes-Backman said.

Round five of the competition has two tracks. The hardware track will support as many as 20 new teams that will compete for up to $3 million in prizes as they advance their technologies. Software track competitors can receive up to $2 million in awards, using advances in communications and information technologies to reimagine solutions for solar deployment challenges.

The agency is accepting applications to compete in the Solar Prize through Oct. 5.