Author: DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office         Published: 10/19/2020             DOE

Energy dot gov Office of Energy Efficiency and renewable energy

Solar Desalination Prize

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the 19 quarterfinalists who will advance to the next contest in the $9 million Solar Desalination Prize. Part of DOE’s American-Made Challenges, the Solar Desalination Prize is designed to accelerate the development of systems that use solar-thermal energy to produce clean water from salt water for municipal, agricultural, and industrial use.

Chosen from more than 160 applicants, the 19 quarterfinalists will receive $50,000 in cash and advance to the second contest of the competition. The competitors come from 12 states and represent universities, industry, and national labs. They have proposed diverse solutions for creating low-cost solar-thermal desalination systems and a pathway to commercialization. The DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office, with input from a panel of industry experts, judged the submissions. In the second phase they will establish their teams, including commercial partners and a host facility, to realize their plans to build a fully operational test system.

“Water is one of our most critical resources, but so is American ingenuity,” said Deputy Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes. “These competitors are working to develop innovative solutions that will help give American families, farmers, and businesses greater access to clean water.”

Solar-thermal energy has the potential to cost-effectively purify water with very high salt content that can’t be treated with conventional desalination technologies. The quarterfinalists are developing a variety of innovative desalination methods to extract clean water from nontraditional water sources, such as water produced from extracting oil and gas, and brine from inland municipal desalination facilities.

During the competition, the quarterfinalists will have access to support and technical assistance through the American-Made Network, a group of National Labs, incubators, investors, and industry experts. The Network will help accelerate the development and commercialization of these systems by facilitating connections with venture capital firms, industry representatives, and others.

The teams being chosen today will advance to the third contest, where they will develop a detailed, feasible system design.

This prize is part of the Water Security Grand Challenge, a White House-initiated, DOE-led framework to advance transformational technology and innovation to meet the global need for safe, secure, and affordable water. The prize is also part of DOE’s American-Made Challenges, a series of prizes that incentivize the nation’s entrepreneurs to strengthen American leadership in energy innovation and domestic manufacturing.

DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has partnered with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to administer the Solar Desalination Prize. Learn more about the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.