NREL Challenge

Solar District Cup

Solar District Cup

Challenging multidisciplinary student teams to design and model optimized distributed energy systems for a campus or urban district.
Connections, Pride & Experience!

Challenge Overview

Welcome to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar District Cup Collegiate Design Competition!

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 distributed energy capabilities across mixed-use districts, or groups of buildings served by a common electrical distribution feeder. The competition engages students across the engineering, urban planning, and finance disciplines to reimagine how energy is generated, managed, and used in a district.

Teams compete in one of multiple divisions, each 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 will be 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 at the 2020 Solar Power Southeast 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 renewable 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 solar 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.. 



To learn more about the Solar District Cup 2020, review the recorded Kick-off Webinar from Aug. 15, 2019. You can also read the competition Rules, available under the Resources tab, and register your team by choosing “Accept Challenge” on this page. Team registration is open through Sept. 12, 2019. Team registrations must be submitted by this deadline, although additional team members can be added at any time.

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The Solar District Cup is directed and administered by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and is funded by the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office. Learn more.

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Frequently Asked Questions

You can stay informed about the competition from afar without creating an account by signing up for our newsletter

To follow the challenge, leave a comment, or register to compete, you need to register on All you need to provide is your name and email address.

If you plan to compete with a team from your collegiate institution, just click the “Accept Challenge” button on this page and follow the instructions to complete your registration. 

If you are an enrolled student pursuing a degree or a faculty advisor at an eligible U.S. collegiate institution, YES, but your participation will be associated with your collegiate institution.

If you encounter an issue when attempting to participate or register for the challenge, you may need to contact HeroX or the Competition Administrators.

You may try to connect with HeroX using the online form that appears in the bottom right corner of your browser window—it says “Leave a Message.”

You may also send a message to the Prize Administrator inbox at .

Please allow at least 1 business day for a response. 

The Solar District Cup is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office and administered and executed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

If you have a question not answered in the FAQ, you may contact a competition administrator directly at .