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Solar District Cup 2023

Class of 2022-2023: Challenging multidisciplinary student teams to design and model solar-plus-storage systems for a campus or district.

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Summary
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Updates21
Forum5
Teams2.1K
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Summary

Overview

With the completion of the Solar District Cup Class of 2022-2023 competition in May, 2023, we are moving this HeroX channel to HeroX.com/SolarDistrictCup2023 as an archived page. All future updates to the program will be made on the main Solar District Cup HeroX page, where you will find information about the current program and competitors. 

The Solar District Cup challenges multidisciplinary student teams to design and model distributed energy systems for a campus or district. These systems integrate solar and battery storage across mixed-use districts or groups of buildings served by a common electrical distribution feeder. The competition engages students in engineering, finance, urban planning, sustainability, and other disciplines or degree programs to reimagine how energy is generated, managed, and used in a district.

The Solar District Cup launched in 2019. Learn more about the past classes of competitors, including winners and district use cases: 

Student teams assume the role of a solar-plus-storage developer to produce a conceptual design and financing proposal as well as analyze electric distribution grid interactions for a district use case. Teams compete in one of multiple divisions, each structured around a district use case. Winning teams are selected by industry judges for each division, based on the quality of their proposed solutions. The strongest submissions provide solutions that maximize the district’s energy offset and financial savings over the contracted or useful life of the system while integrating aesthetic, infrastructure, and community considerations. 

Students submit written deliverable packages for evaluation and present their solutions to judges live at an online competition event, at which the winners are determined and announced.       

            

APPROACH

The Solar District Cup is designed to inspire students to consider new career opportunities, learn industry-relevant skills, engage with the professional marketplace, and prepare to lead the next generation of workforce in distributed solar energy. As competitors, students:

  • Gain 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 a trophy and national recognition.

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.

 

NEW WAYS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CLASS OF 2022-2023

New to the Class of 2022-2023 are a few updates to the way in which students can participate. The competition will accept collegiate team registration on a rolling basis, which means students can begin work and access learning resources on a timeline that best aligns with their academic calendar.  Student teams will receive their assigned district use case and access to modeling tools on a rolling basis starting September 8, 2022. Additionally, the Solar District Cup Class of 2022-2023 will allow for one-semester or two-quarter participation in the winter/spring.

Student teams will have 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 can self-select their district use case, utilizing the district’s available data, with missing data synthesis support by competition organizers. All student teams choosing to bring their own district will compete in a division against other teams bringing their own districts. 

PREVIOUS PROGRAMS

The Solar District Cup launched in 2019. Learn more about the past classes of competitors, including winners and district use cases: 

LEARN MORE

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

GUIDELINES

The rules document provides a framework for student effort, student team submittal requirements, and judging evaluation. The Class of 2022-2023 Rules have been released and can be accessed under Resources in HeroX.

GOAL

The goal for each team is to design a solar-plus-storage system for a campus or district that maximizes energy offset and financial savings over the contracted or useful life of the system. Competition teams assess electric distribution grid interactions and assume the role of renewable energy systems developers to produce a power purchase agreement (PPA), lease, and/or cash purchase proposal for their division’s district.

The Solar District Cup has multiple divisions. Each division has a set of six teams competing against each other. Each team is tasked to design a solution for a use case of an existing mixed-use district or campus interested in increased distributed energy development. For most divisions, the competition organizers provide each team with the details of their division’s district use case. New for the class of 2022-2023, there is a division in which student teams identify their own defined district use case of electricity load and site data. A district use case is a defined area served by one or more electrical distribution feeders with a collection of spaces potentially available for PV installation, including but not limited to: building rooftops, facades, open land, parking, agricultural dual use, bodies of water, and other facilities.

 

WHAT TEAMS DO AND WIN

Teams submit two deliverables: a Progress Deliverable Package and a Final Deliverable Package.

A team competes against other teams in their division at a final competition event. Competition organizers assign teams to divisions upon registration. Each team designs its own solution for the assigned division’s district use case. The strongest team concepts are those that maximize the district’s energy offset and financial savings over the system’s contracted or useful lifetime while integrating aesthetic, infrastructure, and community considerations. A team wins based on its average score as determined by a panel of three to five judges who evaluate the competition entries through review of deliverable packages and presentations. The first-place winners of each division compete against each other to determine a Project Pitch winner. 

As competitors, students:

  • Gain 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 a trophy and national recognition.

HOW JUDGING WORKS

A qualified panel of three to five judges—comprising subject-matter experts and representatives from the partner district use cases selected by the competition organizers—score finalist submissions according to the extent to which they agree that the content and formatting requirements were met and with the solution aligns with the judging statements listed below:

  • PROJECT PROPOSAL - The proposal presents a clear and concise summary of the project. Both the proposal and the presentation make a compelling case as to why the proposed solution is the best choice for the district given its needs, constraints, and goals.
  • CONCEPTUAL SYSTEM DESIGN - Conceptual system design proposes a creative and innovative solution that demonstrates excellent analysis, system design, optimal battery use strategy, and and understanding of the PV hosting capacity with distribution constraints.
  • FINANCIAL ANALYSIS - Financial analyses communicates a strong grasp of renewable energy project finance. Input assumptions are justifiable, calculations are correct, battery-operation strategy delivers maximum economic benefits, and pricing and rate of return are attractive to the market. The outputs of both the battery analysis and the customer savings analysis are included as tabs to the Excel-based financial model.
  • DEVELOPMENT PLAN - Proposed building, site, construction, and development plans with any rezoning adds significant value in a comprehensive, actionable, and feasible approach for the district and surrounding community members with distributional equity.

COMPETITION DELIVERABLES

Teams participating for a full academic year are expected to submit two deliverables: a Progress Deliverable Package and a Final Deliverable Package. Teams that submit the progress deliverable receive feedback from the organizer staff. Student teams participating for the spring semester (or winter/spring quarters) compete within their own division and submit only the Final Deliverable Package. These packages are summarized in Table 1 and Table 2 of the Rules and are described in greater detail in the appendices. Competition deliverables are submitted via the online HeroX competition platform.

Progress Deliverable Package—Solar PV System

  • A complete submission for the progress deliverable is the design and analysis of interconnected solar PV systems that maximize energy offset and savings over the system’s contracted or useful lifetime for the district use case.

Final Deliverable Package—Solar PV Plus Battery Electric Storage System

  • The Final Deliverable Package includes a complete conceptual design, modeling, and analysis of a proposed interconnected solar PV plus battery electric storage system that maximizes energy offset and savings during the system’s contracted or useful lifetime for the division district, given its use case parameters and conditions.

 

ELIGIBILITY

The Solar District Cup invites participation of teams comprising of at least three students enrolled in accredited U.S.-based collegiate institutions. Students must be enrolled in at least one class and be pursuing a degree for the duration of the competition. Students who graduate in the middle of the competition timeline may continue on the team as a mentor and contributor; they may contribute to the modeling, analysis, and deliverable components; however, they may not present to the judges in the final competition event. Students and faculty advisors are not required to be U.S. citizens at the time of the competition. Members of the judging panels, competition organizer staff, and U.S. Department of Energy and national laboratory employees are ineligible to compete.

Although any level of collegiate student is eligible to compete, the challenge scope is intended for multidisciplinary teams of upper-level undergraduate students. Student participation may be integrated into senior design or capstone project, count as elective or independent study course credit, be added to the curriculum of existing classes, treated as a seminar topic, engaged as part of a student interest club, or be an extracurricular student activity.

Each team is encouraged to have at least one faculty advisor, but this is not required for participation. Teams are also encouraged to connect with mentors inside or outside their school. If a team of students needs assistance in identifying a faculty advisor or mentor, they can contact the competition organizers for help.

By uploading a deliverable package, a team certifies that it is in compliance with the eligibility requirements. If the organizers become aware that a team or individual is not eligible, that team may be disqualified from competition.

Please see the Class of 2022-2023 Rules.

Timeline
Updates21

Challenge Updates

Congratulations, Class of 2022–2023!

May 3, 2023, 3:27 p.m. PDT by sara fall

Congratulations to the Solar District Cup Class of 2022–2023! This past Sunday, 27 competing teams proposed designs to industry judges. On Monday, May 1, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the division winners and Project Pitch Champion in the Solar District Cup Collegiate Design Competition's Class of 2022–2023. Fifteen division winners received first-, second-, third-place, or honorable-mention trophies across five divisions.

The first-place teams from each of five divisions—the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and Duluth campuses; Boise State University; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and two teams from Northeastern University—went on to compete in front of a live virtual audience who voted for the Project Pitch Champion.

Kudos to the Northeastern University team (pictured below) placing first in the North Carolina State University District Use Case Division, and winning the Class of 2022–2023 Project Pitch Championship! 

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Thank you to the Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office for their support of this program, our competition partners, this year’s Solar District Cup judges, and, of course, the inspirational student competitors and their mentors who make this competition so impactful.

This has been another amazing competition year, and we are very pleased to say we’ll see you soon for the Solar District Cup class of 2023–2024!

 


Division Winners Announced! Join 2pm ET today to vote for Project Pitch Champion

May 1, 2023, 8:43 a.m. PDT by NREL Prize Administrator

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy announced division first-, second-, and third-place winners, as well as honorable mentions. And this afternoon, the public is invited to vote for the Project Pitch Champion from among the first-place teams! 

The top teams in each division are as follows: 

Bring-Your-Own-District Use Case Division 

  • 1st: University of Minnesota Twin Cities and Duluth Campuses  
  • 2nd: Iowa State University of Science and Technology 

Florida A&M University District Use Case Division  

  • 1st: Northeastern University  
  • 2nd: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University  
  • 3rd: Drexel University  

Lake Nona Town Center District Use Case Division 

  • 1st: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  
  • 2nd: Texas A&M University  
  • 3rd: North Carolina State University  
  • Honorable mention: Boise State University 

Lummi Tribal Nation District Use Case Division 

  • 1st: Boise State University  
  • 2nd: Macalester College  
  • 3rd: West Texas A&M University  

North Carolina State University District Use Case Division 

  • 1st: Northeastern University  
  • 2nd: Illinois State University 
  • 3rd: Carnegie Mellon University   

Congratulations to all of the Class of 2022-2023 teams that participated in this year’s competition.  

Next up: the final Pitch Championship is 2 - 3 p.m. EDT! Watch live as the five first-place teams in each division pitch to a public audience, who will then vote on their favorite team to determine the Project Pitch Champion.  

Register now to join the Solar District Cup Pitch Championship and tune in to cast your vote today at 2 p.m. EDT! 


This Monday: Cheer on Teams at the Class of 2022-2023 Pitch Championship!

April 27, 2023, 8:15 a.m. PDT by sara fall

On Monday, May 1, the top three teams in each competition division will be announced at 11 a.m. ET--then the 1st-place teams get a few hours to prepare their 8-minute project pitch to their peers and a public audience, who will vote for their favorite team to become the Project Pitch Champion. We need you to decide! 

Join us on May 1 at 2-3 p.m. ET to vote on the winner! 

Don’t miss the chance to see these student leaders shaping the future of solar in this live virtual event. Learn more about the Class of 2022-2023 Competition Event and join the Pitch Championship to watch the students make their case and then vote for one of the collegiate teams vying to become the Project Pitch Champion!


You’re Invited: Solar District Cup Competition Event Apr 30-May 1

April 13, 2023, 10:38 a.m. PDT by sara fall

Students competing in the Solar District Cup Class of 2022-2023 have been diligently working on their solar-plus-storage designs. Now, they’re getting ready to pitch their design proposals to their division peers and a panel of industry judges at the 2022-2023 Competition Event. 
 


On April 30-May 1, 2023, about three dozen student teams will participate in a two-day, three-part event where they will propose their designs to a panel of industry judges, find out the winners in each division, and compete for the title of Project Pitch Champion. The schedule of events includes: 

  • Sunday, April 30
    • 12 – 6 p.m. EDT - Solar District Cup Student Division Presentations
  • Monday, May 1
    • 11 – 11:30 a.m. EDT - Solar District Cup Division Winner Announcement
    • 2 – 3 p.m. EDT - Solar District Cup Pitch Championship

On Monday, May 1, U.S. Department of Energy leadership will join the Division Winners Announcement to award the first-, second-, and third-place winners in each division. Then, the four 1st-place teams will each present an 8-minute project pitch to their peers and a public audience, who will vote for their favorite team to become the Project Pitch Champion. We need you to help us decide the Project Pitch Champion. Join us to vote for the winner!

Register to join the Pitch Championship, watch the students make their case, and then vote for one of the collegiate teams vying to become the Project Pitch Champion!

 

Don’t miss this chance to see these student leaders shaping the future of solar in this live virtual event!


ORISE Undergraduate $5,000 Scholarship Opportunity!

March 9, 2023, 1:59 p.m. PST by sara fall

Are you looking for another opportunity to be creative in the solar energy space? Or do you know a student who is? 

Check out this scholarship:   

The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) is hosting a research-based artistic challenge for undergraduate students! 

Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technology Office (SETO) is accelerating the advancement of solar technology, but in general, the public is unaware of these technologies. 

Your challenge is to develop a piece of art in the Solarpunk style to communicate the research of SETO to the general public.  

You could win a $5,000 scholarship with your artwork!  

For more information about this competition, please visit the ORISE website: https://orise.orau.gov/resources/stem/scholarships.html

 

The competition deadline is Sunday, April 30, 2023. 


Forum5
Teams2.1K
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SUNY Morrisville SUNY Morrisville
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University of Colorado at Boulder University of Colorado at Boulder
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Nathan Kehl's team Nathan Kehl's team
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UM -Solar Blue UM -Solar Blue
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Devin Gregg's team Devin Gregg's team
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WTAMU E.T. WTAMU E.T.
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Boise State University Team Spring 2023 Boise State University Team Spring 2023
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PAL ROBO PAL ROBO
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Sokanha Ly's team Sokanha Ly's team
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Abril Stoner's team Abril Stoner's team
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JoeStudent's team JoeStudent's team
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Macalester Solar District Cup Team Macalester Solar District Cup Team
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Gerald Herder's team Gerald Herder's team
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NREL Simulated Student Team NREL Simulated Student Team
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HAWKS CLEAN ENERGY TEAM HAWKS CLEAN ENERGY TEAM
1 team member
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Lewis & Clark College team Lewis & Clark College team
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Afeni Laws's team Afeni Laws's team
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Hampshire College team Hampshire College team
1 team member
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Keith Gilmore's and Alec's  team Keith Gilmore's and Alec's team
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Amari Coleman's team Amari Coleman's team
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Alfred State College Team Alpha Alfred State College Team Alpha
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Alisha Mugunthan's team Alisha Mugunthan's team
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Thomas Zolper's team Thomas Zolper's team
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Texas Tech University Renewable Energy Texas Tech University Renewable Energy
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UNH Energy Club UNH Energy Club
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Alexandra van Riel's team Alexandra van Riel's team
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Appalachian State Appalachian State
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Katie Watson's team Katie Watson's team
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ELECTRICAL & RENEWABLE ENERGY CLUB ELECTRICAL & RENEWABLE ENERGY CLUB
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Kristie Mejia's team Kristie Mejia's team
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Agri-field and Building Applied Solar Design Team Agri-field and Building Applied Solar Design Team
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SAC Solar Design Team SAC Solar Design Team
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Gordana Vlahovic's team Gordana Vlahovic's team
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