Crowdsourcing has been a force multiplier for SunShot Catalyst – a $1M prize program on a lean operational budget. By sourcing solar ideas, we have been able to capture the collective genius of a growing ecosystem of solar innovators. There are over 5000 active members in the Catalyst community from 54 countries with the majority of participation from the U.S. We have also raised the bar across the U.S. Federal Government for what can be accomplished with crowdsourced software development of rapid prototypes.
The U.S. Department of Energy announced a competition series called SunShot Catalyst complete with cash prizes to help launch a number of cutting edge solar companies to offer solutions for the challenges of today’s solar marketplace. The overall theme of the competition series was exploration of new solutions to lower soft costs through a series of challenges in 4 steps: ideation, business innovation, prototype, and incubation.
With Topcoder, the U.S. DOE helped bring 17 very different application solutions to life in just 60 days. A wide variety of work was executed for the various teams including API creation, wireframes, design concepts, prototypes and development.
Limitless solar energy is at our fingertips, and yet the U.S. is still hovering right around the 1% mark when it comes to harnessing that power. The U.S. Department of Energy is keenly aware of this great potential for solar energy, as well as the barriers or soft costs associated with solar uptake, such as cost of materials, obtaining necessary permits, availability of vendors, installation constraints, and more. They wanted to rapidly create a large variety of business model ideas along with digital application prototypes and MVPs (minimum viable products) that showcase how intuitive applications could increase the number of Americans using and benefitting from solar energy.