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The Solar District Cup challenges multidisciplinary student teams to design and model optimized distributed energy systems for a campus or urban district. These systems integrate solar, storage, and other technologies across mixed-use districts, which are groups of buildings served by a common electrical distribution feeder. The competition engages students in the engineering, urban planning, finance, and related disciplines to reimagine how energy is generated, managed, and used in a district.

The goal is to design, model, and present the most innovative and cost-effective system possible. Teams compete in one of multiple divisions, each of which is structured around a specific district. A winner is selected for each division based on the quality of their solar energy system design. The strongest designs provide the highest offset of annual energy and greatest financial savings, which is determined by a techno-economic analysis that the students conduct and judges evaluate.

Students present their solutions to judges at a live event, where the winners are selected and announced.   

The U.S. Department of Energy announced the Solar District Cup on May 30, 2019. The competition is administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).


The Solar District Cup is designed to inspire students to consider new career opportunities, learn industry-relevant skills, engage with the professional marketplace, and prepare to become leaders in distributed solar energy. As competitors, students:

  • Build experience with innovative distributed energy design
  • Develop innovative solutions to real-world, district-scale challenges
  • Engage with industry professionals to forge relationships and connections that aid participating students’ transition to the distributed energy workforce upon graduation
  • Compete to earn national recognition upon winning a Solar District Cup and/or being selected as an industry choice winner or pitch champion.

The Solar District Cup encourages collaboration between academia and industry. The program seeks to establish public-private partnership and demonstrate corporate and nonprofit industry co-sponsorship.


The Solar District Cup is proud to have the following partners supporting the program and the participating teams:

  • Aurora Solar Inc. – This software company has created a cloud-based platform that uses data, automation, and AI to streamline workflows and grow solar businesses faster. The company provides complimentary accounts with access to their solar software to all competing teams for the duration of the competition, as well as customized training and hosting “office hours” sessions.
  • Energy Toolbase Software Inc.  Energy Toolbase provides a cohesive suite of project modeling, storage control, and asset monitoring products that enable solar and storage developers to deploy projects more efficiently. The Energy Toolbase Developer product, which Solar District Cup participants will utilize in the competition, specializes in utility rate and financial analysis of solar + storage projects. Energy Toolbase is providing all competing teams free accounts and access to its software, offering customized training, and staffing “Office Hours” sessions throughout the competition.
  • RE+ (formerly Solar Power Events) – RE+ Events, powered by Solar Energy Industries Association and the Smart Electric Power Alliance, brings clean energy leaders together in marketplaces across the United States and internationally to expand business prospects and share best practices. RE+ Events offers participants year-round access to resources for growing their businesses as the industry changes, as well as opportunities to have an impact on the future of clean energy through exhibition at events and speaking opportunities at educational seminars.

Thank you to our sponsors for helping make the Solar District Cup a success. 

The recognition of sponsor organizations does not constitute or imply any endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation of their messages, missions, activities, products, or programs. The U.S. Department of Energy does not monitor, control, or directly fund the activities of the identified organizations.


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This work is funded as part of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office FY2019-21 Lab Call through a project with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.