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Solar Desalination Prize Round 1 logo

Solar Desalination Prize Round 1

The American-Made Challenges: Solar Desalination Prize is a multi-stage prize competition designed to accelerate the development of low-cost desalination systems that use solar-thermal power to produce clean drinking water from saltwater. Each stage of the competition will have increasing prize amounts, totaling millions of dollars.


In April of 2020, the Solar Energy Technologies Office at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Solar Desalination Prize competition to help achieve the goals of the Water Security Grand Challenge.

Round 1 quarterfinalists and semifinalists have been selected and are eligible to compete in the Design Contest.

Water Security Grand Challenge logo
Close up photo of a PV panel
Graphic of the American-Made Challenges framework; Make a plan, design a proof of concept, develop prototype and identify pilot partner.

The Prize Structure

The Solar Desalination Prize has a rapid iteration prize structure designed to help entrepreneurs use innovative research to come up with ideas, then design and test concepts, with the end goal of having shovel-ready technology primed for industry adoption.

Millions of dollars in prizes will be awarded over the competition, increasing in value in each phase, culminating in a $1 million grand prize at the end of the competition for successful testing and demonstration of promising solar desalination prototypes.

Contests & Important Dates

Timeline graphic for Solar Desalination Prize

    Innovation Contest

  • Open: April 28, 2020
  • Close: July 16, 2020, at 3 p.m. ET
  • Quarterfinalists announced Oct. 19, 2020
  • Review the technical specifications that teams should consider during the Innovation Contest

    Teaming Contest

  • Open: Oct. 19, 2020
  • Close: Feb. 9, 2021, at 3 p.m. ET
  • Semifinalists announced April 2021

    Design Contest

  • Open: April 12, 2021
  • Submissions accepted: As soon as competitors are ready
  • Finalists are expected to be announced one month after DOE receives submissions
  • Close: April 2024

    Test Contest

  • Open: April 12, 2021
  • Submissions accepted: The second Monday in April annually
  • Winners are expected to be announced one month after the DOE site visit
  • Close: April 2024

Sign up for updates on the Solar Desalination HeroX page.

All dates are subject to change including contest openings, deadlines, and announcements.

Graphic image of solar panel array in front of water, indicating that it can be used to generate fresh water.

Solutions that Can Shape the Future of Solar

Are you a thinker, entrepreneur, facility or potential partner? Anyone with an innovative idea can help promote transformation by participating in the American-Made Challenges.

Ready for the challenge?