NREL Challenge

 22,127

Solar District Cup 2020

Challenging multidisciplinary student teams to design and model optimized distributed energy systems for a campus or urban district.

This challenge is closed

stage:
2021 Registration Deadline
prize:
Connections, Pride & Experience!

This challenge is closed

Overview

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.

 

CLASS OF 2020

The Solar District Cup Class of 2020 competed from September 2019 to April 2020. Student teams designed and modeled optimized distributed energy systems for their assigned district use case. The 2020 district use case partners were Ball State University, JBG SMITH, and New Mexico State University. 

From September to November 2019, the Solar District Cup Class of 2020 involved students and faculty advisors from 61 teams, representing 52 collegiate institutions as participating teams. These students built their portfolios with experience by developing solutions to the renewable energy needs of campuses or urban districts. 

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 positions as Solar District Cup 2020 finalists.

The finalists moved on to compete in the second half of competition and prepared to submit their Final Deliverable Package. 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

Crystal Parks District Use Case Division

1st Place, Dartmouth College: This team proposed that Crystal Parks remain on Dominion Schedule 10 and install a photovoltaic- (PV) only system with a flat power purchase agreement (PPA) rate resulting in estimated savings of $273,000 over 20 years. To have 100% of their load covered by renewable energy, Dartmouth College recommended a virtual PPA in addition to the on-site PPA to cover the remaining load.

2nd Place, Colorado School of Mines: This team designed two solar solutions for the Crystal Parks district, including rooftop PV systems for all five buildings with approximately 160- to 290-kW of PV on each rooftop and an off-site PV system located at the decommissioned I-66 landfill 23 miles west of Arlington, VA, capable of offsetting approximately 100% of the district’s energy usage when combined with the five rooftop systems.

3rd Place, Cornell University: This team’s final solution achieved approximately 1.5-MW maximum (1.55213-MW, 1.940016-MWh per year) of solar energy produced through a five-building rooftop system, carports, solar flowers, and solar kiosks. The final solution also incorporated the opportunity for a 50-kW (100-kWh) battery storage system, which would provide enough power to sustain the district's emergency life systems for a minimum of an hour and a half.

New Mexico State University (NMSU) District Use Case Division

1st Place, University of Cincinnati: This team’s ground-mount PV and battery storage system was proposed approximately 1.5 miles east of NMSU’s Campus Park, near the Geothermal Substation. The system consisted of a 3.3-MW PV array and a 4-MWh battery storage system. A second PV system was also proposed, which included a 295-kW carport array with six canopies. For each canopy, 365-W monocrystalline Canadian Solar Inc. modules were selected.

2nd Place, West Virginia University: This team’s final system design consisted of three subsystems: a 278-kW fixed horizontal tilt PV array to be installed on the roof of the Corbett Student Union; a 988-kW, single-axis tracking PV array with a 405-kW/4-MWh lithium iron phosphate battery storage system located on the parcel of land next to the Geothermal Substation; and a small 16-kW solar pergola structure on the Hadley Hall field. All PV arrays make use of Canadian Solar Inc. bifacial PV modules. 

3rd Place, University of Colorado Boulder: This team’s solution consisted of 10 rooftop installations, two parking lot installations, and a small shaded installation in the quad in front of Hadley Hall. The final solar PV system for NMSU presents a 16.5% energy offset for the demand provided by the competition. 

Ball State University (BSU) District Use Case Division

1st Place, Florida International University: This team proposed a 13,632,501-kW PV system that will help to offset the energy produced on the campus by about 78%. Within the area available on the campus, the PV system utilized rooftop areas, available land, and a church parking lot to mount 32,633 panels.

2nd Place, New Mexico State University: This team proposed a comprehensive approach to integrate solar PV and battery electric storage system, solar thermal, and thermal storage system. They also made suggestions for electrification of the campus fleet, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and added artistic solar benches in several locations throughout the campus. 

3rd Place, Creighton University: This team proposed two phases of development that included two distinct solar PV and battery systems, including rooftop PV systems on four different buildings on BSU’s campus and ground-mounted PV arrays that will take advantage of single-axis trackers on the northern section of campus. A small PV system has also been designed for the 55° south-facing wall on the architecture building, which creates a marketing opportunity for BSU.

The Solar District Cup 2020 Industry Choice winner was University of Cincinnati. Congratulations!

 

LEARN MORE

To learn more about the Class of 2020: 

To learn more about the program and the current competition: 

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.

Guidelines

Challenge Guidelines

GUIDELINES

The Rules document provided a framework for student activities, student team submittal requirements, and judging evaluation.

 

APPROACH

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. The Class of 2020 competitors achieved the following:

  • Built experience with innovative renewable energy design
  • Developed real-world solutions that shape the future of solar energy
  • Engaged with industry professionals to forge relationships and connections that aid participating students’ transition to the solar energy workforce upon graduation
  • Competed 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.

 

PROBLEM STATEMENT

The Solar District Cup 2020 challenge was to:

Design a solar-plus-storage system for a district that maximizes energy offset and financial savings over 20 years. 

The Solar District Cup 2020 had three divisions. Each division had at least six teams competing against each other. Each division had a distinct use case of an existing mixed-use urban district or campus interested in pursuing increased distributed energy development. The competition organizers provided each team with the details of the district use case for the division in which the team competed.

During the 2020 competition, a district use case was a defined area served by an electrical distribution feeder with a collection of buildings, open space, parking, and infrastructure.

 

WHAT TEAMS DID AND WON

The goal for each team was to design a solar-plus-storage system for a campus or urban district. Competitors analyzed electric distribution grid interactions and assumed the role of renewable energy systems developers to produce a power purchase agreement proposal for their division’s district.

The winning teams in each division of the Solar District Cup 2020 received a trophy and national recognition. Additionally, one team (University of Cincinnati) was identified as the industry choice winner. All student competitors gained valuable experience with real-life examples of innovative renewable energy design. Competitors learned to use leading industry software, presented to nationally respected judges, and engaged with industry. 

 

HOW JUDGING WORKED

A qualified panel of five judges per division, comprising subject-matter experts and representatives from the partner district use cases selected by the competition organizers, scored finalist submissions according to the judging statements listed in the Rules. The judging panel for each division selected a first-, second-, and third-place team for each division. The judging panel made their selections through a subjective evaluation based on their expertise and experience.

 

COMPETITION DELIVERABLES

The competition deliverables comprised a proposal similar to a power purchase agreement request for proposals response and contained the following elements:

Progress Deliverable Package – Solar PV System:

  • Conceptual system design—layout, specifications, and energy production
  • Distribution system impact analysis—power flow model and approach
  • Financial analysis
  • Development plan—building and site plan, and construction plan.

Final Deliverable Package – Solar PV + Battery Electric Storage System:

  • Conceptual system design—layout, specifications, energy production, and battery cycles
  • Distribution system impact analysis—power flow model and approach
  • Financial analysis—financial narrative and model
  • Development plan—building and site plan, and construction and development plan
  • Optimization strategy narrative and presentation.

 

ELIGIBILITY

The Solar District Cup invited participation of teams composed of at least three students enrolled in accredited U.S.-based collegiate institutions. Students had to be enrolled in at least one class and be pursuing a degree for the duration of the competition. Students and faculty advisors were not required to be U.S. citizens but had to be legally residing in the United States at the time of the competition. Members of the judging panels, competition organizer staff, and DOE and national laboratory employees were ineligible to compete.

Although any level of collegiate student was eligible to compete, the challenge scope was intended for multidisciplinary teams of upper-level undergraduate students. Student participation could have been integrated into senior design or capstone work, counted as elective or independent study course credit, been added to the curriculum of existing classes, or be considered an extracurricular student activity. 

To learn more, please review the official Solar District Cup 2020 Rules.

Timeline
Updates 15

Challenge Updates

New Solar District Cup Competition Page

July 20, 2020, 12:32 p.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

The Solar District Cup organizers would like to share that all future updates to the program will be made on the main Solar District Cup HeroX page. This is where you will find information about the current program and competitors. 

The Solar District Cup 2020 HeroX site will remain accessible as a resource and archive of the 2020 program. If you are following the Class of 2020 HeroX page and would like to receive updates about future challenges, you can follow the current competition on HeroX or subscribe to the newsletter

Whether you participated in the Class of 2020 or enjoyed following the program, we invite you to join the Class of 2021 competition and remain an active part of the Solar District Cup community! 


Congrats to the Solar District Cup 2020 Winners!

April 30, 2020, 1:39 p.m. PDT by Joe Simon

On Sunday, April 26, the Solar District Cup 2020 competition event was conducted. Through live video conference, 26 competing teams presented to a panel of judges in one of three district use case divisions. Each team had 15 minutes to present, followed by 10 minutes of questions from the judges. Afterward, the judges deliberated to select the third-, second-, and first-place winners in each division. The judges were uniformly impressed by the caliber of solutions presented by all the competing teams. 

On Monday, April 27, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the winners on a live video conference event. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Renewable Power, David Solan spoke on how the Solar District Cup addresses Energy Department goals related to growing the solar energy workforce before unveiling the following winners.

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 

Later that day, the three first-place teams gave 8-minute presentations to an audience of peers and industry professionals. The video conference attendees then voted on their favorite team to win the Industry Choice Award. After voting concluded, DOE’s Director of the Solar Energy Technologies Office, Dr. Becca Jones-Albertus, announced University of Cincinnati as the Solar District Cup 2020 Industry Choice winner.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the inaugural year of the Solar District Cup, and congratulations! 

Image of University of Cincinnati as the Solar District Cup 2020 Industry Choice winner.

You’re Invited! Join the 2020 Competition Presentations!

April 24, 2020, 6:51 a.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

You’re invited to join the 2020 competition presentations and participate in the selection of the Industry Choice winner of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar District Cup 2020 Competition

Graphic version of Solar District Cup 2020 Competition Event agenda

Over the 2019/2020 academic school year, collegiate students have worked on developing creative solar solutions for a campus or urban district. This weekend is the culmination of their hard work as they compete in the final competition event.

All events are open to public and industry attendance. 

Here’s the flow of events:

  • Sunday, April 26, 12-6 p.m. ET
    • Using live video conferencing, students will present to a panel of judges, other competing teams within their division, and guests.
    • Students will give 15-minute presentations followed by 10 minutes of Q&A with the division judges.
    • Judge deliberations will take place after the student presentations have concluded.
  • Monday, April 27, 11-11:30 a.m. ET
    • First-, second-, and third-place winners in each division will be announced by live video conference.
  • Monday, April 27, 2-3 p.m. ET
    • The three first-place winners will give 8-minute project story presentations to a public audience by live video conference.
    • The audience will vote on their favorite team to win the Industry Choice award.

Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to watch the 26 competing teams present their solutions and help select the Solar District Cup 2020 Industry Choice winner—RSVP on the 2020 Event page to see the presentations and vote on your favorite team on April 27!


Announcing the Solar District Cup Class of 2021

April 3, 2020, 6:46 a.m. PDT by Jackie Petre

The Solar District Cup is excited to announce the next round of competition! The Class of 2021 program will launch on April 30, 2020, and span the 2020-2021 academic year.

The 2021 program follows the same format, inspiring collegiate students to design and model optimized distributed energy systems for a campus or urban district. Participants will gain real-world experience through a hands-on multidisciplinary project that connects them with valuable solar industry resources. This is an excellent opportunity for faculty to challenge students in an engaging way while preparing them for the solar energy workforce upon graduation.

The Solar District Cup organizers are eager to once again see the creative solutions proposed by students in this next year of competition. Team registration opens on April 30, 2020. At that time, interested students or faculty can register to participate in the 2021 program. The deadline to register a team is September 29, 2020. 

Follow on HeroX for updates on the Class of 2021. We hope you join us for the 2021 competition!


Live Video Conference Competition To Occur April 26-27

April 1, 2020, 9:02 a.m. PDT by Joe Simon

The Solar District Cup 2020 Competition Event will occur April 26 and 27 as a fully online event.

Here’s how this new event format will look:

  • Using live video and presentations, students will present their solutions via online video conference on Sunday, April 26, to a panel of industry judges, all other competing teams, and guests.
  • Each student team will give a 15-minute presentation and participate in a 10-minute Q&A session with their judging panel.
  • Judge deliberations will take place on Sunday, April 26, after the student presentations have concluded.
  • First-, second-, and third-place winners in each division will be announced the morning of Monday, April 27.
  • First-place winners of each division will present their 8-minute project story the afternoon of Monday, April 27, where attendees will vote to determine the Industry Choice winner.

We know the student participants have invested significant time and work into this project, and we are excited to see their designs. We hope that you’ll plan to join us for their presentations.

Links to register for each portion of the competition will be provided in a future update.


Forum 20
Teams 618
Resources
FAQ
2020 Notifications
2020 Partners
2020 Event
2020 Judges

2020 Judges

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar District Cup Collegiate Design Competition is proud to have the enthusiastic support of industry professionals as judges for the 2020 competition event.

 

Judges for Division 1: Crystal Parks District Use Case 

Keith Cronin
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.


Brion Fitzpatrick
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.


Jonathan Gritz
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.


Aram Shumavon
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 

Toyah Barigye
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. 


Pat Chavez 
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.


Michael Coddington
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.


Evan Riley
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 

Bakary Coulibaly
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.


Kristen Fornes
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.


Nick Heine
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.


Sumit Ray
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.