Department of Energy Announces Solar District Cup Class of 2022–2023 Winners

15 Collegiate Teams Earn Division Winner Titles for Solar-Plus-Storage Design Proposals

May 2, 2023 | By Sara Fall and Jackie Petre | Contact media relations

Solar District Cup trophies.
U.S. Department of Energy Solar District Cup Collegiate Design Competition trophies for the Class of 2022-2023. Photo by Werner Slocum, NREL

On Monday, May 1, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the division winners and Project Pitch Champion in the Solar District Cup Collegiate Design Competition's Class of 2022–2023. A total of 14 student-led teams won first-, second-, or third-place trophies across five divisions, with the addition of one honorable mention and one Project Pitch Champion.

The previous day, Sunday, April 30, students presented their distributed solar projects to a panel of industry judges and their division peers. On Monday, the top teams in each division, plus one honorable mention, were announced, and the five first-place teams were invited to pitch their concepts to a public audience that afternoon. An audience voted on the most promising solar proposal to become this year's Project Pitch Champion.

The Solar District Cup, now in its fourth year, challenges multidisciplinary student teams to develop solar-plus-storage systems to supply mixed-use districts, or groups of buildings served by a common electrical distribution feeder. The competition engages students across engineering, finance, urban planning, energy technology, sustainability, and other disciplines to reimagine how energy is generated, managed, and used in a real-world district.

For the Class of 2022–2023 edition of the competition, the district use cases for which students designed solar-plus-storage solutions were Florida A&M University, Lake Nona Town Center, the Lummi Tribal Nation, North Carolina State University, and, in a new division this year, campus districts that students defined themselves.

The competition 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 distributed solar energy.

As Geraldine Richmond, undersecretary for science and innovation at the U.S. Department of Energy, said in remarks to the student competitors, "You now have hands-on experience with the grid issues and solutions you can expect to see in a career in this dynamic field. I hope the experience you've gained helps you envision ways you can contribute to a sustainable energy future. The solutions you've proposed show the kind of talent and knowledge necessary to help bring about the clean energy transition."

For this competition, collegiate teams were challenged to design, model, analyze, and present a distribution-scale solar-plus-storage proposal for one of five district use cases. At the April 30 competition event, 27 competing teams presented their concepts to a panel of industry judges. Student proposals were evaluated based on their potential to maximize the district's energy offset and financial savings over the life of the system while integrating aesthetic, infrastructure, and community considerations.

Solar District Cup Class of 2022–2023 Division Winners

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

Project Pitch Champion

After the announcement of top teams in each division on May 1, the five first-place teams moved on to the Project Pitch Championship that same day, where they presented condensed pitches to a public audience. One of the teams from Northeastern University—from the North Carolina State University Use Case Division—was voted Project Pitch Champion for the Class of 2022–2023.

Robert Meagley, a technology manager at the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office, said to the students during the Pitch Championship: "Competitions like the Solar District Cup aren't easy—you were challenged to solve problems that experts and professionals at the highest level are actively working on. Every step of way, you have been taking on the same challenges and applying the same tools used by industry. The Department of Energy has many programs like this that prepare students for success in the clean-energy workforce. And I am very excited that this competition will continue to engage and mentor students into the Class of 2023–2024!"

During the competition, students receive access to educational resources and tools provided by partnering organizations, including Aurora Solar, Energy Toolbase Software Inc., and RE+ Events. These partners provide benefits over the course of the competition, including design and analysis software tools, networking opportunities with industry professionals, and instruction. District use case partners Florida A&M University, Lake Nona Town Center, the Lummi Tribal Nation, North Carolina State University, and those partners who worked with students to define their own districts shared valuable data with students to enhance the depth of their projects. The collective support of these organizations is essential to student success in the competition and in their career development.

Richmond announced that the U.S. Department of Energy Solar District Cup Collegiate Design Competition Class of 2023–2024 is forthcoming. Follow the competition on HeroX for more details.  

Congratulations to all of the competing students in the Solar District Cup Class of 2022–2023!

Learn more about the Solar District Cup.

Tags: Solar