Three Solar Industry Contests Driving Innovation

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One of the things we love about working in the solar industry is that our community is constantly pushing forward with practical innovations that help make the energy system cleaner and more sustainable. Innovation has been a cornerstone of the solar industry’s successes to date. Take, for example, the gradual improvements in product and process that have contributed to the cost of solar falling more than 70% since 2010.

We take the need for innovation seriously here at Aurora—from pioneering accurate remote shading analysis and solar design to rethinking the process of creating a 3D site model—so we’re excited to see a number of competition programs encouraging the development and implementation of new clean energy ideas.

Whether you’re a solar installer (residential, C&I, or utility-scale), manufacturer, aspiring entrepreneur or inventor, there’s something for everyone in these three contests.

1. Solar Builder’s Project of the Year

Solar Builder magazine’s Project of the Year contest, which honors noteworthy solar projects large and small, is a great way to share unique and innovative projects your company has developed.

With four project categories—Residential, Commercial & Industrial, Utility-scale, and Solar + Storage—eligible projects can take a wide range of forms. They just need to have been completed between October 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018 and demonstrate some form of significance. This could range from technological innovation, impressive design, valuable community impacts, or other notable characteristics.

Winners will be selected by popular vote so this is a prime opportunity to drive support through your network of happy customers and your social media channels! There will also be an Editor’s Choice award. Submissions are due by August 31, and can be completed hereWinning projects will be profiled in Solar Builder magazine’s end-of-year issue and on its website.

Solar Builder magazine's Project of the Year is a great opportunity to showcase cool projects your company has developed!Photo credit: Solar Builder.

2. The U.S. Department of Energy’s American-Made Solar Prize competition

Things have been tumultuous recently for our friends in the solar manufacturing sector, whose products, from modules to inverters, make possible the great successes our industry has achieved. So it’s great to see a new competition from the Department of Energy (DOE) offering support to U.S. manufacturers to innovate new products.

The contest is structured in three progressive prize rounds (the “Ready! Set! Go!” contests) that seek to encourage the development of new U.S.-made solar products. $3 million in funding from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will be disbursed through the competition in the following contests:

  • “Ready!”—selects 20-40 winners who have identified an impactful idea or solution addressing a critical need in the solar industry to receive a $50,000 prize.
  • “Set!”—selects 5-10 winners, who substantially advance their technology solution toward a viable and promising proof of concept, to receive up to $200,000 prize and up to $75,000 in vouchers that can be used at national laboratories and other facilities to develop, test, and validate.
  • “Go!”—selects up to two winners who produce a prototype and find a testing partner. Winners receive a $500,000 prize and up to $75,000 in vouchers.

Submissions are due October 5.

3. Open Innovability contests from Enel in partnership with Innocentive

Multinational energy corporation Enel is releasing 50 challenges related to energy, in partnership with crowd-sourcing company Innocentive. Anyone with “any idea, project, business solution or patent” that helps solve one of the challenges is encouraged to submit it for consideration. Competitors who submit winning concepts will have the opportunity to work with Enel to develop and implement the ideas (in addition to receiving cash prizes in some cases).

The contests span a wide range of energy-related topics, but we’ve combed through them to highlight a few we think are particularly relevant to solar professionals:

  • Technologies for renewable generation—ideas for improving of existing renewable energy technologies, better integration of renewable power in human environments, and the use of new renewable resources.
  • Clear the way for clean energy—ideas for advancing universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services, with a specific focus on energy efficiency and renewable production.
  • Energy for those in need—ideas for meeting the basic energy needs of those in energy poverty, including new technologies, revival of ancient low-cost techniques and knowledge, as well as services that increase the energy resilience of communities.
  • Energy Storage Systems: technologies to minimize costs & maximize profitability—new technologies, architectures, and control strategies to lower energy storage costs and to improve the way they are are built, operated and maintained to maximize profitability.
  • Turning the tide on climate change—new (practical or theoretical) ideas for tackling the adverse effects of climate change.

While the deadlines vary for each challenge, those highlighted above have deadlines either on December 31, 2018 or are continuously open. 

There you have it—three programs that offer publicity, financial support, and/or technical support for creative new clean energy ideas. Get brainstorming!

P.S. Are there other opportunities you think your solar friends and colleagues should know about? We hope you’ll share them in the comments below! 🙂