A group of 10 teams have been selected as finalists in Round 1 of the American-Made Solar Prize, a $3 million competition aimed at revitalizing U.S. solar manufacturing, administered by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
Each of the finalist teams will be awarded $100,000 from the second phase of the competition, called the Set! Contest. 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. The range of innovations represented by the competitors include cell and device-related concepts as well as module and application hardware.
The finalists in the Set! Contest are:
- BREK Electronics Corp. is developing transformative, silicon-carbide-based composite architectures for string inverters.
- Catalyst is accelerating rooftop solar by offering a cost-effective plug-in “solar appliance” that simplifies rooftop solar installation and expedites project payback.
- Crystal Sonic is using a novel wafering technology to dramatically reduce substrate cost and improve reuse for gallium arsenide-based solar cells.
- Imagen is introducing an efficient, compact, next-generation multi-port Power Electronics Systems for revolutionizing the future of PV solar and EV applications.
- Omnisole is developing a revolutionary ballasted racking system that greatly reduces installation time, with no roof penetrations, and can be used on steep roofs.
- Phase3 Photovoltaics is designing a novel power integration system that enables PV systems to be integrated on manufactured homes during the manufacturing process.
- Solar Guardian is creating a low-cost device that prevents electrical fires in photovoltaic modules, enabling safer and lower cost solar system installations.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 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.”
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 sq ft of prototyping and coworking space.
“Greentown Labs was proud to host the American Made Solar Prize Set! Demo Day and we were so impressed by the semifinalist presentations. Congratulations to all 20 semifinalists for making it this far and to the ten finalists as they move on to the final contest,” said Dr. Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with NREL and the Department of Energy to support solar innovation!”
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.
Submissions to the Go! Contest in Round 1 are due September 4, 2019. 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.
News item from NREL
I find items 1, 7, 10 particularly interesting. Having SiC drivers in the inverters would make the inverter more robust, enable the unit to be air cooled getting rid of one of the most failure prone components on the inverter, the cooling fan(s). The Silicon Carbide transistors also have better switching characteristics, lower on resistance and better D.C. to A.C. switching efficiency.
Preventing solar panel fires, although I’ve not heard a lot about panel fires, fire suppression made cheap would be a nice addition to panels of the future.
The tandem cell using perovskites has promising future results of the 30% plus cell efficiency. It has also been proven that perovskites can be ‘sprayed’ onto silicon cells as part of the cell manufacturing process.