Steep-roof ballast racking, new PV cell concepts among 10 American-Made Solar Prize finalists


National renewable energy laboratory NREL

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) named the 10 finalists from Round 1 of the American-Made Solar Prize, a $3 million competition aimed at revitalizing U.S. solar manufacturing. The range of innovations among the competitors include cell and device-related concepts as well as module and application hardware.

Each of the finalist teams will be awarded $100,000 from the second phase of the competition, called the Set! Contest.

“The progress made by our finalists is very promising,” said Debbie Brodt-Giles, prize administrator for NREL. “We’ve seen them test the viability of their ideas and make quick progress with the help of our industry partners and members of the American-Made Network. The best part of this competition is the partnership between the Network and teams, watching them quickly overcome hurdles and accelerate progress toward their prototyping and market-ready potential.”

How we got here

Finalists were chosen by a panel of expert judges at a national demonstration day event at Greentown Labs in Boston from 20 teams, a subset of the original pool of more than 150 submissions in Round 1. They took steps to develop a novel idea or provided a solution that addresses a critical need for the solar industry and substantially advanced their technology solutions toward a viable and promising proof of concept.

The demonstration day event included live pitches and a question-answer session with the judging panel. It provided an opportunity for industry members to hear directly from competitors about their innovations and for teams to network and collaborate in Greentown’s 58,000 square feet of prototyping and coworking space.

In addition to cash prizes from the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, winners of the Set! and Go! Contests will receive as much as $75,000 in vouchers that may be redeemed at national laboratories and qualified fabrication facilities to further develop their ideas.

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What’s next?

These competitors are now eligible to continue to the final phase of the competition, the Go! Contest, for an additional $500,000 in cash prizes awarded to up to two winning teams.

Submissions to the Go! Contest in Round 1 are due September 4, 2019, at 5:00 p.m. ET. Up to two final winners will be selected after another demo day and pitch session at Solar Power International in Salt Lake City in September. The judges will examine how well the competitors have advanced their solution from proof of concept to a refined prototype. They also must have found a partner to perform a pilot test of their prototype solution.

Meet the 10 finalists

top 10 prize finalists

1. BREK Electronics Corp. is developing transformative, silicon-carbide-based composite architectures for string inverters.

2. Catalyst is accelerating rooftop solar by offering a cost-effective plug-in “solar appliance” that simplifies rooftop solar installation and expedites project payback.

3. Crystal Sonic is using a novel wafering technology to dramatically reduce substrate cost and improve reuse for gallium arsenide-based solar cells.

4. Imagen is introducing an efficient, compact, next-generation multi-port Power Electronics Systems for revolutionizing the future of PV solar and EV applications.

5. Omnisole is developing a revolutionary ballasted racking system that greatly reduces installation time, with no roof penetrations, and can be used on steep roofs.

6. Phase3 Photovoltaics is designing a novel power integration system that enables PV systems to be integrated on manufactured homes during the manufacturing process.

7. Solar Guardian is creating a low-cost device that prevents electrical fires in photovoltaic modules, enabling safer and lower cost solar system installations.

8. Solar Inventions is creating a new cost-effective photovoltaic cell design that increases power, improves shading response, decreases hotspot risks, and produces a more reliable module.

9. Solar SEED is creating innovative voltage controller hardware to offer flexible and scalable basic energy access and emergency backup power for a new generation of the solar market.

10. Tandem PV is creating an innovative photovoltaics tandem solar cell prototype using a combination of high-efficiency perovskite material plus silicon in a tandem solar cell.

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