Solar District Cup

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The Solar District Cup challenges multidisciplinary student teams to design and model optimized distributed solar energy systems for a campus or urban district. These systems integrate solar, storage, and other technologies across mixed-use districts, or 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.

Teams compete in one of multiple divisions, each division structured around a distinct district use case. 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. This is determined by a techno-economic analysis conducted by students and evaluated by judges. The goal is to design, model, and present the most reliable, resilient, and cost-effective system possible.

Students will present their solutions to judges in conjunction with the Solar and Energy Storage Southeast 2020 conference in Atlanta, where the winners will be selected and announced.         


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

  • Build experience with innovative distributed energy design
  • Develop real-world solutions that shape the future of solar energy
  • 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

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.


  • April 1, 2019 – Competition registration opened
  • July 31, 2019 – Rules released
  • September 12, 2019 – Deadline for registration of participating teams
  • September 19, 2019 – Participating teams announced
  • September 23, 2019 – Optional all-team Warmup Workshop at Solar Power International conference
  • November 21, 2019 – Deadline for receipt of Progress Deliverable Package from all participating teams
  • December 12, 2019 – Finalist teams announced
  • Spring 2020 – Deadline for receipt of Final Deliverable Package from finalist teams
  • April 19, 2020 – Finalists present their projects to judges and industry at the Solar and Energy Storage Southeast conference
  • April 20, 2020 – Winners announced


The Solar District Cup 2020 involves students and faculty advisors from 61 teams, representing 52 collegiate institutions as participating teams. These students are building their portfolios with experience by developing solutions to the renewable energy needs of campuses or urban districts.


The participating collegiate institutions for the Solar District Cup 2020 are:

Alfred University
Appalachian State University
Arizona State University
Brown University
California Polytechnic State University
California State University, Fresno
California State University, Los Angeles
Case Western Reserve University
Clemson University
Colorado School of Mines
Cornell University
Creighton University
Dartmouth College
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Florida International University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Hampton University
Hanover College
Illinois Institute of Technology
Indiana University--Purdue University Indianapolis
Kettering University
Little Big Horn College
Marquette University
Missouri University of Science and Technology
Montana State University
Morgan State University
New Mexico State University
Northern Arizona University
Northwestern University
Ohio Northern University
Prairie View A&M University
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Santa Clara University
The Ohio State University
The University of Akron
The University of Arkansas
The University of Massachusetts Lowell
The University of Texas at Austin
The University of Virginia
United Tribes Technical College
University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
University of Central Florida
University of Cincinnati
University of Colorado Boulder
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
University of North Florida
University of South Florida
University of Washington
Valencia College
West Virginia University
Western Washington University
Yale University


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

  • Aurora Solar – This software company has created a one-stop, cloud-based solution to streamline the solar design and sales process. It is giving all competing teams free accounts and access to its solar software, offering customized training, and hosting “office hours” sessions throughout the competition.
  • HeatSpring – This technology firm has developed a platform that helps knowledge leaders better reach knowledge seekers. It offers online courses led by industry experts for professionals in renewable energy industries, including solar and green building. HeatSpring is providing a training platform and solar industry training content for all competing students and hosts “office hours” with solar business experts Keith Cronin and Chris Lord.
  • Solar Power Events – This group is behind North America’s largest solar and storage events and is owned by the Solar Energy Industry Association and Smart Electric Power Alliance. The organization provided space, promotion, and amenities for the Solar District Cup at Solar Power International 2019 and will do the same at Solar and Energy Storage Southeast 2020.
  • Ball State University – Ball State University is a district use case partner.
  • JBG Smith – JBG Smith is a district use case partner.
  • New Mexico State University – New Mexico State University is a district use case partner.

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.


To learn more about the Solar District Cup 2020, review the recorded Kick-off Webinar from August 15, 2019. You can also read the competition Rules on HeroX, the competition platform. Team registration is open through September 12, 2019, although additional team members can be added at any time.

Subscribe to competition emails or send us your questions.

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.