The so-called SunShot program by the U.S. government aims to spur U.S. innovations to reduce the cost of solar energy. The Energy Department said it's invested $60 million in an incubator program meant to help new solar power concepts at small businesses.
The Energy Department said $10 million in cash awards were available for the first three teams that can demonstrate non-hardware costs for small-scale solar systems for homes and businesses can be as low as $1 per watt.
The department said that target represents a 65 percent decrease from costs associated with permitting, licensing and connecting solar power systems to the electricity grid.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu described the contest as a "race to the rooftops."
"This aggressive target is an important step that will help bring us significantly closer to reaching the SunShot goal of cost-competitive solar energy by the end of the decade," he said in a statement.
Efforts to advance solar power in the United States are controversial. Leaders in the House of Representatives have taken issue with a $535 million federal loan guarantee offered to solar panel company Solyndra, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010.
Man behind Doritos Locos Tacos passed away on Thanksgiving
Exploding whale video goes viral on Internet