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 on a live video conference, where the winners will also 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 – 2020 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
- March 31, 2020 – Launch of 2021 program
- April 14, 2020 – Deadline for receipt of Final Deliverable Package from 2020 finalist teams
- April 26, 2020 – 2020 finalists present their projects to judges and industry during a live video conference event
- April 27, 2020 – 2020 winners announced
- April 30, 2020 – 2021 team registration opens
- September 14, 2020 – Optional 2021 Warmup Workshop at Solar Power International conference
- September 29, 2020 – Deadline for registration of 2021 participating teams
Class of 2020 Program
The Solar District Cup Class of 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.
Appalachian State University
Arizona State University
California Polytechnic State University
California State University, Fresno
California State University, Los Angeles
Case Western Reserve University
Colorado School of Mines
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Florida International University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Illinois Institute of Technology
Indiana University--Purdue University Indianapolis
Little Big Horn College
Missouri University of Science and Technology
Montana State University
Morgan State University
New Mexico State University
Northern Arizona 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
West Virginia University
Western Washington University
CLASS OF 2020 FINALIST TEAMS
From September to November 2019, participating teams made progress on their projects. After successfully demonstrating their progress and meeting the requirements of the Progress Deliverable Package, students and faculty advisors from 35 teams, representing 32 collegiate institutions, earned a position as Solar District Cup 2020 finalists.
The collegiate institutions continuing as finalists in the Solar District Cup 2020 are:
- Alfred University
- Appalachian State University
- Arizona State University
- Brown University
- California Polytechnic State University
- California State University, Los Angeles
- Clemson University
- Colorado School of Mines
- Cornell University
- Creighton University
- Dartmouth College
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
- Florida International University
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- Hanover College
- Illinois Institute of Technology
- Indiana University--Purdue University Indianapolis
- Marquette University
- Missouri University of Science and Technology
- New Mexico State University
- Northern Arizona University
- Santa Clara University
- The Ohio State University
- The University of Arkansas
- The University of Massachusetts Lowell
- The University of Virginia
- University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
- University of Cincinnati
- University of Colorado Boulder
- University of South Florida
- West Virginia University
- Western Washington University
Congratulations to these finalist teams and good luck competing during the live video conference competition event on April 26-27, 2020!
Class of 2020 Winners
On April 26, 2020, the Solar District Cup held its 2020 competition event. Through a live video conference, 26 competing teams presented to a panel of judges in their district use case divisions. Each team had 15 minutes to present, followed by 10 minutes of questions from the judges.
On April 27, 2020, the third-, second-, and first-place winners in each division were announced. Following this announcement, the three first-place teams gave 8-minute presentations to a public audience, who voted on their favorite team to win the Industry Choice Award.
The Solar District Cup Class of 2020 winners are:
Crystal Parks district use case division:
- 1st Place: Dartmouth College
- 2nd Place: Colorado School of Mines
- 3rd Place: Cornell University
New Mexico State University district use case division:
- 1st Place: University of Cincinnati
- 2nd Place: West Virginia University
- 3rd Place: University of Colorado Boulder
Ball State University district use case division:
- 1st Place: Florida International University
- 2nd Place: New Mexico State University
- 3rd Place: Creighton University
The Solar District Cup 2020 Industry Choice winner is University of Cincinnati. Congratulations!
Judges for Division 1: Crystal Parks District Use Case
President, SunHedge LLC
Keith Cronin studied business administration before starting an energy startup in Hawaii in 1998. The company was acquired by SunEdison in 2007. Cronin started SunHedge in 2008, with a focus on project development, consulting, and distance learning.
Director of Business Development, Nexamp
Brion Fitzpatrick holds a Bachelor of Arts in marketing communications from Columbia College. He has a background as a commercial-, public-, institutional-, and utility-scale project developer for more than 60 projects in the U.S. Fitzpatrick is currently the director of Southeast business development at Nexamp, a national leader and owner of community solar, commercial and industrial, and greenfield development.
Director of Energy, JBG SMITH
Jonathan Gritz received a Bachelor of finance from Yeshiva University and a Master of Business Administration from Georgetown University. He manages the energy conservation programs for JBG SMITH, including the JBG SMITH Tenant Service Center, a 24/7/365 operations center that controls the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems across JBG SMITH’s portfolio. Gritz implements a broad range of energy programs across 20 million square feet of owned and managed buildings, including analytics and fault detection, optimized programming strategies, energy audits, and energy use reporting.
Dana Clare Redden
CEO, Solar Concierge
Dana Redden holds a Bachelor of Science from Drexel University, as well as an Executive Master of Business Administration from IE Business School and Brown University. In 2016, she founded Solar Stewards, a third-party solar program directly connecting corporate social responsibility initiatives with impact capital to develop solar on universities, affordable and senior housing, places of worship, and non-profits. Redden is currently the CEO of Solar Concierge, a consultancy dedicated to helping communities and businesses utilize solar, which she founded in 2012.
CEO, Kevala, Inc.
Aram Shumavon is an economist by training with a Bachelor of Arts in public policy and economics from the University of Chicago. Previously, he provided advisory services to the California Public Utilities Commission and founded the advocacy organization Distributed Energy Consumer Advocates, a national nonprofit consumer-oriented energy policy organization. Shumavon is currently the CEO at Kevala, Inc., an energy and environmental data aggregation and analytics firm specializing in data analysis and mapping in the electricity sector.
Judges for Division 2: New Mexico State University District Use Case
Senior Project Manager, The Solar Foundation
Toyah Barigye holds a Master of Science in sustainability management with a focus on renewable energy from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Connecticut. Prior to joining The Solar Foundation, she worked as a renewable energy specialist at Arcadia Power, recruiting solar and wind energy clients. She is now on both the technical assistance and designation teams of the SolSmart program and works with communities to reduce solar soft costs, lower barriers to solar energy, and streamline planning and zoning, permitting, and inspection processes aligned with industry best practices.
Director of Utilities and Plant Operations for Facilities and Services, New Mexico State University
Pat Chavez received his Associate of Applied Science in HVAC from New Mexico State University (NMSU). His previous career experience includes being a department supervisor at NMSU, a project engineer at an energy services company, a mechanical systems specialists at a satellite tracking station, and an energy manager at NMSU. Chavez’s current list of positions includes serving as director of utilities and plant operations at NMSU, an AEE-certified energy manager, certified building commissioning professional, and assistant professor at the Dona Ana Community College.
Principal Electrical Engineer, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
Michael Coddington earned a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering in addition to being a licensed electrical contractor and master electrician. He was formerly an electrical distribution planning engineer for Xcel Energy, focused on the City and County of Denver Division. Coddington now works at NREL on the development of distributed energy resources (DER) standards and codes; the state, national, and international DER interconnection procedures; providing support for the U.S. Agency for International Development; and the U.S. Department of Defense projects.
Christopher J. Lord
Managing Director, CapIron, Inc.
Christopher Lord holds a Juris Doctor degree from Cornell University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts from Reed College. He has been general counsel of a publicly traded technology firm and energy finance firm, as well as counsel to energy development projects, utility financings, energy efficiency securitizations, and renewable energy transactions. Lord currently teaches online courses related to solar energy on HeatSpring and serves as managing director of CapIron, Inc., a firm he founded to provide advisory and consulting services to businesses, projects, utilities, development companies, and manufacturers in the green energy and environmental sustainability sectors.
Founder and Partner, White Pine Renewables
Evan Riley holds a master’s in solar engineering from the European Solar Engineering School and a Bachelor of Physics and Mathematics from Indiana University at Bloomington. His previous experience includes overseeing development for Cypress Creek Renewables for five years and serving as an independent engineer for Black & Veatch for five years, where he worked on project- and corporate-level transactions. In his current role, Riley focuses on leading the clean energy transition through technological and business model innovation.
Judges for Division 3: Ball State University District Use Case
Development Engineer, SolAmerica Energy
Bakary Coulibaly earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of the District of Columbia. He specializes in early-stage project development and project engineering. Currently, he oversees the engineering aspects of project development for SolAmerica Energy and is working on a 15-megawatt portfolio in Illinois as part of the Adjustable Block Program from the Illinois Power Agency.
Director of Business Development, ENGIE
Kristen Fornes received a Bachelor of Science in Finance from DePaul University and a Master of Business Administration in sustainable management from Kellstadt Graduate School of Business at DePaul University. She started her career selling retail power contracts to small business customers for AEP Retail Energy in Chicago. She is now responsible for developing distributed solar and storage projects for Fortune 1000 customers, cities, and universities for ENGIE, a multinational electric utility company.
Engineer III, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)
Nick Heine received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of New Mexico. During his time as a graduate research assistant, he used OpenDSS to model the impacts of distributed energy resources on the grid. In his current role with EPRI, he works closely with utilities from around the world to develop bespoke solutions for integrating and operating portfolios of distributed energy resources on electric power distribution circuits.
Robert J. Koester
Professor of Architecture, Ball State University
Robert Koester earned a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Kentucky and a Master of Architecture from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is the founding and current director of Ball State University’s (BSU’s) Center for Energy Research/Education/Service, in addition to being a founding member of many other university councils, boards, and committees. Koester is currently a professor and director at BSU, serves as a chair member on the Council on the Environment, and is a university liaison for several environmental programs.
Director of Energy and Sustainability, University of Michigan—Dearborn Campus
Sumit Ray earned a Master of Science in industrial and systems engineering from the University of Florida and an Executive Master of Business Administration from Michigan State University. He has leadership experience in energy management, including central plants, combined heat and power, solar, wind, and sustainability business strategy development with knowledge of various emerging alternative energy and distributed generation technologies and applications. Ray is currently responsible for program development and serves on the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the campus.
Class of 2021 Program
The Solar District Cup is excited to announce the Class of 2021 program, which will span the 2020-2021 academic year. The 2021 program launched in March 2020 and team registration opens on April 30, 2020. At that time, interested students or faculty can register to participate in the 2021 program.
Follow the competition on HeroX for updates on the Class of 2021.
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. Class of 2021 team registration opens April 30, 2020 and remains open through September 29, 2020, although additional team members can be added at any time
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.