The Solar District Cup challenges multidisciplinary collegiate student teams to design and model distributed 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 engineering, urban planning, finance, and related disciplines to reimagine how energy is generated, managed, and used in a district.
The Solar District Cup Class of 2022–2023 competed from August 2022 to May 2023. Student teams designed and modeled optimized distributed energy systems for their assigned district use case.
New Ways to Participate in the Class of 2022–2023
Student teams had two options for their district use cases: (1) assignment to a district use case defined by competition organizers, as has been done in all previous iterations of the Solar District Cup, or (2) a bring-your-own-district division in which students could self-select their district use case, utilizing the district’s available data on their own, with missing data synthesis support by competition organizers. All student teams choosing to bring their own district competed in a division against other teams bringing their own districts. Additionally, the Solar District Cup Class of 2022–2023 allowed for one-semester or two-quarter participation in the winter/spring.
On October 11, 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the 57 teams from 52 schools that spent a full academic year developing design solutions to meet the renewable energy goals of campuses or other districts. On January 31, 2023, DOE announced the 45 teams from 39 schools that advanced to the final stage of the competition.
On May 1, 2023, DOE announced the first-, second-, and third-place winners in each division. Following the announcement, the five first-place teams presented to a public audience, who voted for the Project Pitch Champion.
Below is a list of the Solar District Cup Class of 2023 winners in each division.
Class of 2023 Winners
New to the competition this year was a “Bring-Your-Own-District” division that challenged students to design solar-plus-storage solutions for a district of their choosing, for which competitors tended to choose their own schools. Competition organizers listed the data sets they would need to access to define their own district for the competition, and students were also tasked with researching the district’s energy sustainability goals and describing the buildings, area, and electrical energy use of their chosen district. For the battery storage challenge, students in this division were tasked with defining the battery use case for their district—shift electric load and shave peak usage, provide resilience, or increase solar capacity—and designing a system that would meet at least one of those needs for their chosen district.
1st: The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and Duluth Campuses
- The University of Minnesota team specified important solar system details, including market-available racking and rapid-shut-down solutions. They researched a fire suppression system for the battery energy storage system and proposed a broad array of feasible financing solutions.
2nd: Iowa State University of Science and Technology
- The Iowa State University team performed a comprehensive site-by-site analysis with the Helioscope model. They also incorporated the school logo into a creative solar carport design for community engagement and showed professional confidence with an enthusiastic and polished presentation to judges.
Florida A&M University Division
Florida A&M University (FAMU) is a historically Black public university with its main campus in Tallahassee, Florida, and enrolls nearly 10,000 students a year on a campus that sits on more than 420 acres. Campus facilities range from academic and research spaces to offices, residence halls, gymnasiums, urban farming plots, and outdoor recreation areas. In 2013, FAMU became a signatory to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, setting a goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050. Student teams were tasked to design rooftop or parking canopy photovoltaic (PV) systems on any site that would yield beneficial economics, including a permanent body of water for floating solar. Students were also challenged to design battery storage solutions that would meet 25% of the highest peak load for each of five buildings that cannot entirely lose power during an outage.
1st: Northeastern University
- The Northeastern University team in this division created a proposal and development plan with real-world applicability. They also demonstrated a comprehensive technical analysis, especially with electrical codes. They devoted attention to distributional energy equity and engaging the campus community and delivered clear and confident answers to tough questions from the judges.
2nd: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
- The team from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University University demonstrated a clear technical design approach and well-thought-out equipment choices, even including EV charging stations. They honored the campus community by incorporating the mascot into solar module skins and showed creativity in meeting the campus sustainability goals.
3rd: Drexel University
- The team from Drexel University made bold energy storage recommendations based on the economic analysis of time-of-use electricity rates and demonstrated a clear understanding of solar investment tax credit commercialization. They integrated locally sourced materials and carefully weighed the option to install floating PV.
Lake Nona Town Center
The Lake Nona Town Center serves as the entertainment and experiences hub for a 17-square-mile, master-planned, 5G-powered smart city in Orange County, Florida. Real estate developer Tavistock is planning to install distributed energy and control measures throughout the Town Center, including solar PV, battery storage, and demand-side management technologies, to enhance the grid interactivity of the building stock. Students were challenged to design solar-plus-storage systems for the Town Center while considering rooftops, parking areas, and several nearby bodies of water as potential installation sites. Students were also asked to weigh the benefits of a battery storage system to shift load, shave peak usage, and add resilience.
1st: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- The team from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign demonstrated a deep understanding of the district’s aesthetic philosophy to produce an insightful PV solution. They performed a thoughtful risk assessment and impressed the judges with their technical mastery of systems engineering solutions.
2nd: Texas A&M University
- The team from Texas A&M University demonstrated a high level of professionalism in their proposal documentation. They pursued a creative approach to ground-mounted solar system design that echoed the community’s playful and progressive character and delivered a crisp and convincing presentation.
3rd: North Carolina State University
- The team from North Carolina State University performed comprehensive analysis of the district electricity load profiles. They showcased excellent conceptual design renderings of the proposed PV systems and demonstrated an advanced grasp of financial modeling.
Honorable Mention: Boise State University
- The team from Boise State University delivered robust engineering that exhibited a strong grasp of the fundamentals of solar PV system design.
Lummi Tribal Nation
The Lummi, or Lhaq'temish ("People of the Sea"), are a self-governing federally recognized Tribal nation based on the Pacific Northwest coast roughly 20 miles south of the Canadian border. The Tribe has over 5,500 members and manages nearly 20,000 acres of land on the Lummi Reservation. The Lummi Nation's Strategic Energy Plan 2016–2026 identifies two overarching priorities for the Tribe: (1) improve economic and energy self-sufficiency, and (2) reduce emissions from energy production and use. Students were challenged to cover the energy load for various community buildings by designing solar-plus-storage systems, which might integrate agrivoltaics, rooftop, or ground-mounted PV, as well as considering plans for an electric ferry. The district goals for battery storage include increasing solar capacity on their distribution system, shifting load and shaving peak usage, meeting some of the electrical needs of the new ferry, and as a resilience asset.
1st: Boise State University
- The team from Boise State University in this division developed a solar proposal that aligned with the environmental, economic, and social goals of the Lummi Tribal Nation. They showcased a realistic and professional system design with strong technical justification and presented a thoughtful and detailed project proposal.
2nd: Macalester College
- The team from Macalester College demonstrated a thorough understanding of district constraints and code requirements. They exemplified their “Power to the People” theme through a solar-plus-storage plan that focused on energy independence and presented a well-rounded proposal with community engagement and locally sourced product considerations.
3rd: West Texas A&M University
- The team from West Texas A&M University wrote a concise project proposal with rationale that reflected the challenging use case conditions. They demonstrated a thorough and detailed analysis of proposed solar siting and presented comprehensive design details.
North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus sits on more than 1,100 acres within Raleigh and includes facilities ranging from academic and research centers to office space, a hotel, residence halls, and outdoor recreation areas. In 2008, NC State signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, setting a goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050. The university also has an energy use intensity (EUI) reduction goal of 40% by 2025. Student teams were challenged to design solar-plus-storage systems for rooftop PV on any university-owned buildings or on non-endowment-owned parking as site options, as well as floating solar on a nearby lake. Additionally, students were tasked with a battery storage challenge to shift loads, shave peak electric usage, and provide uninterrupted power during outages.
1st: Northeastern University
- The team from Northeastern University in this division demonstrated thorough knowledge across all aspects of the challenge. They showcased thoughtful consideration to setbacks and supported their approach with evidence from geographic information systems (GIS) images and demonstrated advanced understanding of solar system ownership types.
2nd: Illinois State University
- The team from Illinois State University incorporated recent renewable energy policy developments from the Inflation Reduction Act. They impressed the judges with their rapid-shut-down approach and created graphics that clearly communicated their PV technology portfolio to a general audience.
3rd: Carnegie Mellon University
- The team from Carnegie Mellon University demonstrated thorough knowledge across all aspects of the challenge. They showcased thoughtful consideration to setbacks and supported their approach with evidence from GIS images and demonstrated advanced understanding of solar system ownership types.
Class of 2023 Participating and Finalist Schools
Alfred State College of Technology (finalist)
Alfred University (finalist)
Appalachian State University (finalist)
Arizona State University (finalist)
Boise State University (finalist)
Carnegie Mellon University (finalist)
Clark Atlanta University (finalist)
College of the Muscogee Nation
Drexel University (finalist)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (finalist)
Georgia Institute of Technology (finalist)
Harris-Stowe State University
Hofstra University (finalist)
Illinois State University (finalist)
Indian Hills Community College (finalist)
Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
Iowa State University of Science and Technology (finalist)
Kankakee Community College (finalist)
Kansas State University (finalist)
Macalester College (finalist)
Manhattan College (finalist)
Miami University (finalist)
Michigan State University
Monterey Peninsula College (finalist)
New Mexico State University
New York University
North Carolina State University (finalist)
Northeastern University (finalist)
Penn State Hazleton (finalist)
Saint Louis University
San Antonio College (finalist)
Texas A&M University (finalist)
Texas Tech University (finalist)
The George Washington University (finalist)
The Ohio State University
The State University of New York Morrisville (finalist)
The University of Arizona (finalist)
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (finalist)
The University of New Hampshire
University at Buffalo, The State University of New York (finalist)
University of California, Riverside (finalist)
University of Colorado Boulder (finalist)
University of Houston (finalist)
University of Maryland Eastern Shore
University of Michigan (finalist)
University of Minnesota Duluth (finalist)
University of Minnesota Twin Cities (finalist)
University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus (finalist)
University of Washington
University of Wisconsin-Platteville
Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology
Washington University of St. Louis
West Texas A&M University (finalist)
- June 29, 2022 – Launch of 2022-2023 competition
- June 29, 2022 – Competition registration opened
- August 25, 2022 – Informational webinar
- October 6, 2022 – Fall registration closes for full academic year participation.
- October 11, 2022 – Participating teams announced
- November 17, 2022 – Deadline for receipt of Progress Deliverable Package from participating teams
- December 15, 2022 – Progress Deliverable Package feedback provided
- January 13, 2023 – Informational Webinar for winter/spring participation
- January 26, 2023 – Registration closes for winter/spring participation
- January 31, 2023 – Finalist teams announced
- April 20, 2023 – Deadline for receipt of Final Deliverable Package from finalist teams
- April 30 – May 1, 2023 – Competing teams present their projects to judges and peers at the Final Competition Event
- May 1, 2023 – Winners announced
- Visit Solar District Cup page on HeroX to follow the competition.
- Learn about previous competition cohorts.
- Subscribe to competition emails.
- Send questions about the Solar District Cup to email@example.com.
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.