Solar District Cup

Solar District Cup

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

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.

Subscribe to competition emails or .


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.

Updates 8

The Solar District Cup 2020 Starting Lineup!

Sept. 19, 2019, 2:50 p.m. PDT by NREL Challenge


We are excited to announce that 61 teams from 52 collegiate institutions are participating in the Solar District Cup 2020! Find out which schools are competing. The inaugural class of competitors includes students and faculty advisors from across the country. We are thrilled to have so many teams competing from a wide variety of schools and disciplines!

Ready, Set, Go!

Sept. 13, 2019, 2:05 p.m. PDT by Joe Simon

Thanks for submitting your team “register” entries, now it’s time to view the Kick-off Webinar and read the Rules! We are blown away by the high volume of teams that will be participating in the inaugural Solar District Cup! We will announce a full list of participating collegiate institutions by Sept. 19 on our official informational web page

Registration to compete in the Solar District Cup 2020 is now closed to new teams. However, new team members can be added to an existing team at any time. 

Each team’s primary contact should have received a welcome email from . Review the email to find the code for free conference registration and plan to attend our optional Warmup Workshop on Sept. 23 at Solar Power International.

Watch for a message coming next week from the organizers with your team’s Division and District Use Case Assignment. We are also excited to share that Aurora Solar will be providing each team with a free account to assist with your system design. Information on how to access will be provided by the organizers soon, please do not contact Aurora Solar directly. 

Thanks again to all registered teams. Let the competition begin!

Submit Your Team’s “Register Entry” and Join Us at the Warmup Workshop at Solar Power International!

Sept. 10, 2019, 3:39 p.m. PDT by NREL Challenge


Team registration for the Solar District Cup closes Sept. 12 at 5 p.m. ET and our  optional Warmup Workshop at Solar Power International is less than two weeks away! On Monday, Sept. 23, dozens of student team members and faculty advisors participating in the Solar District Cup 2020 will join us in Salt Lake City, and we’d love to see you there.

For those who attend the Warmup Workshop, here’s what to expect at the event:

·       8:30 a.m. – Welcome and opening remarks

·       8:45 a.m. – Introduction to the Solar District Cup

·       9:15 a.m. – Know Your Division: District Use Case Review

·       9:30 a.m. – Starting Lineups: Team Introductions

·       10:30 a.m. – Top 10 Tips to Take Home Glory

·       11:00 a.m. – Learning from the Pros: District Example, with a special guest speaker from industry

·       11:45 a.m. – Conclude

A free Solar Power International conference registration code will be sent to each team’s primary contact upon team registration on HeroX. You’ll have access to the conference show floor and all educational sessions, as well as the opportunity to network with approximately 20,000 attendees from the solar industry. We recommend that you register as soon as possible and start booking travel accommodations immediately.

Even if you’ve personally created an account on HeroX or joined a team, don’t forget that one team member must submit a “register” entry on HeroX by Sept. 12 at 5 p.m. ET.! Additional team members can be added after the Sept. 12 deadline.

We hope to see you in Salt Lake City!

Nine Days Left to Register Your Team!

Sept. 3, 2019, 11:49 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge


Only nine days left to register your team to compete in the Solar District Cup! As a reminder, at least one person on your team needs to submit a “register” entry on HeroX by 5 p.m. ET on Sept. 12. Additional team members can be added later. To complete team registration:

1.     Click the “ACCEPT CHALLENGE” button at the top of the page

2.     Read and “Accept” the Competitor Agreement

3.     Identify how you will be competing—creating a team, joining a pre-registered team, or competing by yourself – remember, your team makeup can change after September 12!

4.     Click “BEGIN ENTRY” under the “Register” and fill out the submission form.

Upon team registration, you will receive an email from with instructions and a free registration code for our optional Solar District Cup Warmup Workshop at Solar Power International (SPI) in Salt Lake City on Sept. 23. This workshop will prepare teams for competition success and is an excellent opportunity to network with thousands of solar industry professionals.

Don’t forget to complete your team registration by 5 p.m. ET on Sept. 12 and register to attend the Warmup Workshop at SPI. We hope to see you there and look forward to having you compete!

Kick-off Webinar Recording is Now Available

Aug. 20, 2019, 11:36 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge


Thanks to everyone who attended our Kick-off Webinar on Aug. 15. We had fantastic attendance and many great questions. We are thrilled to see everyone’s enthusiasm!

If you couldn’t attend the live webinar, you can view a recording and download the slides via the HeroX platform. We also recommend that you review the Solar District Cup 2020 Rules, if you haven’t already.

Here are the next steps you should take before Sept. 12:

·       If you attended or viewed the Kick-off Webinar and think you’d be a good fit as either a student team member or faculty advisor, please choose to “Accept the Challenge” on HeroX and ensure that one person from your team submits a “Register” entry by 5:00 p.m. ET on Sept. 12.

·       If you have already registered your team and are interested in attending the Solar Power International (SPI) conference in September, be on the lookout for an email coming soon with SPI registration details. We’re excited to offer free conference registration to all team members. Our Warmup Workshop is Monday, Sept. 23 from 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., and you can also attend additional the Solar Power International activities.

·       If you aren’t able to compete in this year’s Solar District Cup but still want to receive updates about competition progress, subscribe to our newsletter.

Please reach out to with any questions and register to compete by Sept. 12!

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