Solar District Cup Finalist Teams Announced

Students From 39 Schools Have Their Eyes on the Future—and the Final Competition Event

Jan. 31, 2023 | By Sara Fall and Jackie Petre | Contact media relations

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar District Cup Collegiate Design Competition announced today that 45 teams from 39 schools are advancing as finalists in the Class of 2022–2023. Competitors are designing distributed energy solar-plus-storage solutions for a real-world district or campus, giving them practice with industry tools and procedures that can make a significant impact as they prepare for careers in the renewable energy industry.

A group of students collaborates. Solar panels in the background and the Solar District Cup logo on the left with the slogan: Design. Model. Compete

To attain a fully decarbonized electricity system by 2035, the U.S. solar industry needs to add hundreds of thousands of new workers, according to DOE's Solar Energy Technologies Office. The Solar District Cup seeks to inspire a new generation of students to enter that workforce.

As in previous years, competitors are encouraged to create multidisciplinary teams to design systems that meet the energy, aesthetic, and financing needs of a particular use case. These systems integrate solar and storage technologies 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 degree programs to reimagine how electric energy is generated, managed, and used in a district.

"In order to achieve our nation's renewable energy workforce goals, we need to set up students for success as they explore how they can contribute to—and benefit from—this diverse industry," said Becca Jones-Albertus, director of DOE's Solar Energy Technologies Office. "The finalist teams in the Solar District Cup are challenging themselves and showing what it takes to be a leader in this field. It's inspiring to think about how much they learn over the course of the competition, and this talented cohort is just getting started. I'm looking forward to seeing what they present in the spring!"

Making Strides in the Competition

Across the entire competition, teams are competing in one of five divisions as they ramp up for the final event that runs April 30–May 1, 2023.

A new aspect of the Solar District Cup enables students to bring their own district to the competition; several teams have chosen to design systems for their own college campuses or other local areas. In addition, teams are designing systems for Florida A&M University in Tallahassee; Lake Nona Town Center in Orange County, Florida; Lummi Tribal Nation in Washington state; and North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

Teams design their systems based on data such as the district's sustainability goals, electric utility rate schedule, development master plan, and other relevant information provided in their division's district use case. Students also receive support from partner organizations, including Aurora Solar, Energy Toolbase Software Inc., and RE+ Events. These partners provide competitors with the resources and tools they need to successfully compete, including access to design software, live office-hour trainings, and networking opportunities with industry professionals.

Class of 2022–2023 Finalists

In November 2022, teams participating in the full-academic-year version of the competition submitted designs and summaries of their proposed systems. Competition organizers provided feedback on the systems 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.

The following list includes finalist teams who are either advancing from the initial group of 57 participating teams from 52 collegiate institutions revealed in October or starting now in the winter/spring division.

The institutions competing as Class of 2022–2023 finalists are:

  • Alfred State College of Technology 
  • Alfred University 
  • Appalachian State University 
  • Arizona State University 
  • Boise State University 
  • Carnegie Mellon University 
  • Clark Atlanta University 
  • Drexel University 
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University 
  • Georgia Institute of Technology 
  • Hofstra University
  • Illinois State University 
  • Indian Hills Community College 
  • Iowa State University of Science and Technology 
  • Kankakee Community College
  • Kansas State University
  • Macalester College
  • Manhattan College 
  • Miami University 
  • Monterey Peninsula College 
  • North Carolina State University 
  • Northeastern University 
  • Penn State Hazleton 
  • San Antonio College 
  • Texas A&M University 
  • Texas Tech University 
  • The George Washington University 
  • The State University of New York Morrisville
  • The University of Arizona 
  • The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 
  • University at Buffalo, The State University of New York 
  • University of California, Riverside 
  • University of Colorado Boulder
  • University of Houston 
  • University of Michigan 
  • University of Minnesota Duluth 
  • University of Minnesota Twin Cities 
  • University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus
  • West Texas A&M University 

Teams Are Finding the Zone

Between now and April, teams will work to complete their final deliverables for the competition. The finalists will describe their proposed system, layout, financial analysis, and other details, which they will package together and submit in mid-April. Then, in a virtual event later that month, teams will present their concepts to panels of industry judges. First-, second-, and third-place teams will be selected from each division to present their projects again, this time to a public audience who will vote to determine the Project Pitch winner.

"This is an exciting phase of the competition, especially to see the students' creative design and analysis ideas to meet the district partner goals," said Sara Farrar, Solar District Cup organizer. "We have already seen growth and learning from teams continuing from the fall, and we are meeting an additional group with the new division that started in January."

If you are interested in getting involved with the Solar District Cup as a partner or industry mentor, contact the Solar District Cup organizers. You can also follow the Class of 2022–2023 as they advance through the competition and sign up for the Solar District Cup newsletter to receive future competition updates.

Learn more about the Solar District Cup.

Tags: Solar,Energy Storage,Photovoltaics,Community