How to Compete in the American-Made Solar Desalination Prize


A Prize Competition Structured for Success

The Solar Desalination Prize has four contests, each successive contest is more challenging than the last, with larger prizes and fewer competitors advancing.


The challenge requires competitors to make progress on a condensed timeline, form private-sector partnerships, and secure investments to make their ideas a reality to earn increasing dollar amounts.


As competitors advance, they should refer to the rules and guidelines for the specific contest that they are competing in. Contest descriptions are below, but may also be found in the official rules document.

Innovation Contest


Individuals or groups of competitors will demonstrate that they have identified a novel and feasible concept for a technology that can deliver desalinated water using solar-thermal energy. The innovation can be a solar-thermal desalination system component or an entire system.


Successful competitors in Contest 1 will have taken steps to determine the technical feasibility, scalability, and other potential benefits of the proposed solution and articulated a credible pathway to commercialization.


Competitors selected to advance will win a cash prize and be eligible to compete in the Teaming Contest.

Teaming Contest


Only the teams selected in Contest 1 may advance to compete in the Teaming contest. Competitors will work to establish and solidify a complete cross-functional project team that can take a preliminary innovative desalination concept into a fully operational prototype. If the innovation selected in Contest 1 is a system component, teams must now plan to incorporate it into a full, functional system.


Successful teams will include innovative technology developers; establish business relationships with key vendors and end users; and identify a possible testing location. The possible location must be capable of hosting a solar-thermal desalination prototype at a scale compatible with the competitor’s identified market and relevant water conditions.


Competitors selected to advance will win a cash prize and and a voucher that may be redeemed at National Laboratories and/or qualified partner facilities in the American-Made Network to further develop their solution, these competitors will also be eligible to compete in the Design Contest.


Design Contest


Only the teams selected in Contest 2 may advance to compete in the Design contest. Competitors will work to complete a detailed design of their proposed prototype of a solar-thermal desalination facility to the point that they are “shovel- ready” for a site located in the United States or territories of the United States.


Successful teams must prove they have obtained all required documentation and approvals needed to begin construction, and construction can begin almost immediately after receipt of the prize. Each team should submit its submission package for consideration as soon as possible but have up to three years to do so after winning the Teaming contest prize.


Competitors selected to advance will win a cash prize and and a voucher that may be redeemed at National Laboratories and/or qualified partner facilities in the American-Made Network to further develop their solution, these competitors will also be eligible to compete in the Test Contest.


Test Contest


Only the teams selected in Contest 3 may advance to compete in the Test contest. Competitors will build their prototype system with a production capacity of at least 100 cubic meters (m3) of fresh water per day.


Successful teams demonstrate the consistent and repeatable operation of their prototype system. Demonstration must cover the full range of modes and input water conditions that they expect the commercial market to require, including transient conditions and start-up and shut- down procedures. Test contest competitors may submit their results only once, and they must submit within three years of winning the Design contest.


Winners of the Test contest will be selected based on their ability to meet or exceed their innovation’s technical and cost goals, and their ability to identify a commercial customer that has committed to implementing the next logical stage of development of the desalination technology.


One Test contest winner is expected to be announced per year, but zero or multiple winners in any given year are possible.

Competitors selected to advance will win a cash prize.


Round 2 is open to new competitors


To compete in Solar Desalination Prize Round 2, please review the rules for further details on eligibility and requirements.


Submission packages should be completed and submitted before each contest’s closing date listed at HeroX Challenge page.


Competitors in Round 1 should refer to the official rules or to Round 1 HeroX Challenge page for guidance on the Design and Test contests.