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Energy Department Launches Virtual Hackathon to Build the Next Big Solar Software Solutions

February 20, 2015 - 8:29am


Last week, the Energy Department's SunShot Initiative launched the largest-of-its-kind, 60-day online hackathon to quickly build prototype solutions and products that address barriers to greater solar energy deployment and drive down the costs of solar energy. Approximately 700,000 coders, developers, and data scientists are expected to participate in this series of contests to build promising software prototypes to help more American families and businesses go solar.

The SunShot Catalyst Prize program was launched in 2014 to create connections and opportunities for collaboration among solar experts, business innovators, software developers, and entrepreneurs and introduce them to a vast array of software tools, capabilities, data sets, and application program interfaces (APIs) developed by the Energy Department and its national laboratories. Collectively, these innovators are now working via an online crowdsourcing platform to address near-term challenges to greater solar deployment and reduce soft costs that can quickly be tackled with data, apps, and automation.

In January, SunShot selected 17 promising teams with creative business plans for products and solutions that solve solar challenges in the "business innovation" phase of Catalyst. Now, during the "prototyping" contest, the selected teams are awarded up to $25,000 worth of tools to help them run coding competitions for 60 days on Appirio's TopCoder crowdsourcing development platform. TopCoder provides Catalyst teams with access to the expertise of hundreds of thousands of designers, developers, and technical talent who can help them to build their minimum viable products.

Following the prototyping process, the teams will publically demonstrate their products before a panel of investors, judges, and their peers during the "demo day" in May and, based on their performance, the Department will award up to $500,000 in additional funds to advance these early stage solutions toward commercialization.

Learn more about how SunShot Catalyst is driving the next generation of software solutions to cut solar costs at To participate and compete in the SunShot Catalyst TopCoder Challenge visit the TopCoder website.