Terra Solar Wins $50,000 in First Stage of Department of Energy's American-Made Solar Prize

March 9, 2020

EPIcenter brings together energy startups and experts to develop innovative energy solutions.

SAN ANTONIO — Terra Solar, an energy startup and member of the EPIcenter Energy Incubator and Accelerator, was named one of the 20 winners nationwide in the first stage of the 2020 American-Made Solar Prize. The do-it-yourself (DIY) solar energy assembly kit claimed the $50,000 prize and earned a spot in the second stage of the competition.


Dr. Jennie Yoshimoto, founder of San Antonio-based Terra Solar, is seeking to expand the accessibility of solar energy by developing a simple-assembly solar kit that is versatile and transportable.

“I encountered several challenges when I was looking to have solar modules installed at my own home and learned that many other potential solar users were experiencing roadblocks that kept them from investing in solar too,” Yoshimoto said. “Some of those challenges include suboptimal roof conditions including too much shade, a large financial commitment to one permanent location, a time-consuming decision process, and a desire to maintain off-grid power. I began investigating customer pains in-depth and received a tremendous amount of support from San Antonio’s energy and business communities to develop a solution that can address some of these issues.”


Yoshimoto began working with Launch SA, Geekdom and the UTSA Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which ultimately led to her working with the SBDC TechnologyCommercialization Center (TCC), Next Generation Photovoltaic Research Center at Texas A&M University, and EPIcenter. She enrolled in the EPIcenter Energy Incubator and Accelerator which provides resources to emerging businesses focused on the advancement of energy innovation and technology. Through the EPIcenter program, Yoshimoto has three certified coaches holding her accountable to the milestones she sets for herself as well as a proven curriculum and access to technical resources.


TCC is assisting Yoshimoto with commercialization strategies, connections to subject matter experts, and pitch preparation. CANopener Labs — a recent addition to San Antonio's tech, manufacturing, and business development ecosystem — provides prototyping fabrication, business advising, and tech education services to startups and individuals seeking to take their visions from ideation to reality. Co-founders Drue Placette, Dale Bracey, and David Elam are in collaboration with Terra Solar to develop a proof-of-concept and full-scale initial prototype for the next phase of the American-Made Solar Prize taking place in Tucson, Arizona in June.


“Terra Solar is a great example of what can happen when innovation and collaboration across organizations and ecosystems collide with an entrepreneur’s idea,” Director of the EPIcenter Energy Incubator and Accelerator Andi Littlejohn said.“EPIcenter provides the curriculum, coaching, mentors and other resources to help make a vision into a viable business.  Working with partners like Southwest Research Institute, Austin Technology Incubator, Zpryme, and the I-CORPS program at Texas State University have helped Dr. Yoshimoto and EPIcenter conduct technical work and market research.  The American-Made Solar Prize affirms her path and we look forward to helping her reach her goals.”  

The American-Made Solar Prize is a $3 million prize competition designed by the U.S. Department of Energy to promote innovation in the solar industry in the United States. It promotes U.S. solar innovation and manufacturing through a series of contests and the development of a diverse and powerful support network leveraging national laboratories, energy incubators, and other resources across the country.




About EPIcenter:

EPIcenter propels energy innovation and thought for our global future with a think tank, incubator and accelerator,strategic partnerships, and critical conversations about energy.  It is particularly focused on ways to make the production, distribution and consumption of energy faster, smarter, cleaner and/or more efficient.   The EPIcenter Energy Incubator and Accelerator is open to any product, service, business model, software, or other idea that fits these criteria.  It maintains a continual enrollment of 12-15 startups from across the United States and Canada. To learn more visit epicenterus.org.