CTT 6-15-2018-solarpanels

[Image above] Credit: zak zak: Flickr CC BY 2.0

According to a new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research, the U.S. solar market enjoyed an annual growth of 13% in the first quarter of this year. However, the report also indicates that the residential sector has been flat—both on a year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter basis. The report also states that the U.S. market showed a 37% quarter-over-quarter decrease in solar installations.

It may take a little longer before we reach widespread adoption of solar technology. Regulation of the industry, tariffs placed on solar imports earlier this year, and now China’s cutbacks in distributed generation projects and feed-in tariffs may restrain the industry further, at least for the short term.

But the good news is that the SEIA/GTM report also predicts flat growth for this year, followed by a strong rebound in 2019 and a 10% or more growth in 2020.

So the federal government’s new domestic solar competition could not have come at a better time.

The Department of Energy recently launched a competition to revive solar manufacturing in the U.S. The American-Made Solar Prize competition seeks to “accelerate and sustain American solar innovation through a series of contests and the development of a diverse and powerful support network that leverages national laboratories, energy incubators, and other resources,” according to the competition website.

And the competition is open to everyone in the U.S—Entrepreneurs, businesses, researchers, national lab researchers, university professors, and students. The goal is to address competitive challenges and create effective solutions to advance solar manufacturing in the U.S.

“The Administration is fully committed to strengthening America’s manufacturing competitiveness,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry explains in a DOE press release. “The Solar Prize brings together the nation’s best-in-class research resources, unparalleled entrepreneurial support system, and competitive, American spirit to create new innovations primed for private investment.”

The American-Made Solar Prize competition is divided into three separate contests:

  • Ideation (up to $50,000 prize)—Participants should identify a critical need in the solar industry, with a solution on how to solve it.
  • Proof of concept (up to $20,000 prize)—Participants should create a proof of concept of their solution.
  • Prototype and pilot test ($500,000 prize)—Participants should develop a prototype and secure a business partner to perform a pilot test.

Competitors will also pitch their ideas to a team of experts who will evaluate their progress during the contest period.

Those interested in participating in the American-Made Solar Prize competition can submit applications at this link until October 5, 2018.

The DOE has also created a collaborative forum for the solar business community to communicate their business challenges to participating contestants, with the intent of spurring ideas and solutions in an informal online platform.

“We share this administration’s desire for strong American solar manufacturing, and this prize competition is a good way to spur innovative ideas,” SEIA president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper states in the release. “The U.S. solar industry is a leader in entrepreneurship and ingenuity, and we support efforts like these that can pave the way to competitiveness for American companies.”

For more information on the competition, register to listen to the DOE’s recent webinar at this link.


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