American-Made Challenges

Solar Desalination Prize

The Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has launched a new prize to help achieve the goals of recently announced Water Security Grand Challenge. 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 salt water. Each stage of the competition will have increasing prize amounts, totaling millions of dollars.



The Solar Desalination Prize is a four-stage prize contest that will advance thermal desalination technologies to expand the utilization of non-traditional sources of water, ensure water security in the U.S. and improve the resilience of American infrastructure.

Graphic of the showing solar trough near a sea shore, with illustration inset of a water faucet.

The Opportunity

Removing salt from water takes a lot of energy! Many of the largest untapped water resources in the US and around the world cannot be cost-effectively used because of high concentrations of dissolved salts. Current standard technology, like reverse osmosis, are efficient when salt concentrations are low, but can’t handle high-salt waters like much produced from oil and gas wells, concentrated brines, and some industrial and agricultural wastewaters.

Novel thermal desalination technologies can purify water with very high salt content without dramatically increasing the amount of energy required. By using solar thermal as the energy source, desalination technologies could be used in a variety of important environments, especially in arid, sunny places where water purification is especially important. Compete to crush salts and purify water.

The Prize Structure

The Solar Desalination Prize has a rapid iteration prize structure that makes it easier for our nation’s entrepreneurs to transform innovative research from early-stage concepts to more mature technology primed for industry adoption.

The prize is comprised of four consecutive phases that accelerate entrepreneurs’ efforts to develop innovative solar desalination concepts into commercially viable products. In each phase, the winners are determined by a panel of reviewers evaluating results based on pre-determined criteria. 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.


Who can participate?


Entrepreneurs, technologists, hardware developers, solar experts, and investors are all welcome and encouraged to join the challenge, be part of the American-Made Network and innovate ground-breaking solutions that will accelerate in solar desalination technologies.



Important Dates


  • Prize Announcement: September 23, 2019
  • Phase 1: will open in early 2020

Follow the prize to be updated on future dates and the official rules.


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

Solutions that help shape the future

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?