Limitless solar energy is at our fingertips, and yet the U.S. still hovers around the 1% mark when it comes to harnessing that power.

As part of its ongoing mission to boost adoption and reduce the soft costs associated with solar, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a competition series called SunShot Catalyst to help cutting edge companies to speed time-to-market for innovative new solar solutions. Participants were challenged to submit problem statements that can be solved through automation, algorightms, data, and software, and 17 teams were selected to build on their ideas through Topcoder.

With Topcoder powering the SunShot Catalyst program, the DOE-sponsored teams sprinted from business application idea to minimum viable product (MVP) in just over 60 days. Each team's project was customized to the requirements of their unique application, and work spanned everything from application wireframes and design concepts to prototype and API development.

At the conclusion of SunShot Catalyst, the teams showcased their apps live in front of a panel of judges, and five startups were awarded cash prizes to kickstart their businesses–and help boost the number of Americans using and benefitting from solar energy.

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.AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow – U.S. Department of Energy