Department of Energy Announces Solar District Cup Class of 2023–2024 Winners

17 Teams Earn Division Winner Titles for Solar and Solar-Plus-Storage Design Proposals

April 30, 2024 | By Sara Fall | Contact media relations

17 pictures of smiling students against a background of gold-hued solar panels.
The Solar District Cup Class of 2023–2024 Project Pitch Champion—University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez—was chosen from six first-place teams pitching their solar energy system proposals to a panel of industry experts.

On Monday, April 29, 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 2023–2024.

In the five years of this competition, this was the largest ever class of competing teams. A total of 17 student-led teams won first-, second-, or third-place trophies across six divisions, with the addition of three honorable mentions and one Project Pitch Champion.

On Saturday, April 27, students presented their distributed solar energy development proposals to their division peers and a panel of industry judges, who provided scoring and instructional feedback to the student teams. On Monday, the top teams in each division, plus three honorable mentions, were announced by the director of the Solar Energy Technologies Office and acting deputy assistant secretary for renewable energy at DOE, Becca Jones-Albertus.

"This experience is about much more than winning," Jones-Albertus said. "Even though we call it a competition, it's really a way to get as many students involved as possible in the push for greater adoption of solar energy. The Solar District Cup is an opportunity to learn about distributed-scale solar energy project design and development, financing, and equity. And to become familiar with industry practices—so that students learn more about this growing field. The country is eager to expand our workforce for the clean energy transition."

Then, the six division first-place teams were invited to pitch their concepts to a public audience that afternoon. A new panel of judges selected the most compelling solar proposal as this year's Project Pitch Champion.

The Solar District Cup, now in its milestone fifth year, challenges multidisciplinary student teams to develop distributed solar and 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.

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.

The Solar District Cup Class of 2023–2024 division winners are as follows:

Bring-Your-Own-District Use Case Division

1st Place: Portland State University

2nd Place: Manhattan College

3rd Place: University of Pennsylvania

California State University, Northridge Use Case Division

1st Place: University of Utah

2nd Place: Villanova University

3rd Place: The George Washington University

Miami University of Ohio Use Case Division

1st Place: Appalachian State University

2nd Place: Macalester College

3rd Place: The Solar Dragons Team from Drexel University

Honorable Mention: Northeastern University

University of Florida Use Case Division

1st Place: The Ray Catchers Team from Boise State University

2nd Place: Kankakee Community College

The University of Texas at Dallas Use Case Division

1st Place: University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez

2nd Place: The University of Alabama

3rd Place: North Carolina State University

Honorable Mention: The EcoDragons Team from Drexel University

University of Washington Use Case Division

1st Place: The Pennsylvania State University

2nd Place: Texas A&M University

3rd Place: Columbia University

Honorable Mention: University of Colorado Boulder

Project Pitch Champion

After the announcement of top teams in each division on April 29, the six first-place teams moved on to the Pitch Championship that same day, where they presented condensed pitches to a four-judge panel of industry experts, who decided the winner. The team from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez school was chosen as Project Pitch Champion for the Solar District Cup Class of 2023–2024. 

In her remarks to the student competitors, Under Secretary for Science and Innovation at the U.S. Department of Energy Geraldine Richmond said, "I know the skills you've learned through the Solar District Cup will serve you well in whatever career path you choose—but I hope you'll consider a career in the clean energy sector. You can be part of the new clean energy economy where your skills will be in demand for years to come. The rapid and successful decarbonization of our electric grid requires innovative, creative, and dedicated people like yourselves. You can be part of the team that steers us toward a cleaner, brighter, and more sustainable energy future for all."

During the competition, students receive access to educational resources and tools provided by partnering organizations Aurora Solar 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 California State University, Northridge; Miami University of Ohio; University of Florida; The University of Texas at Dallas; University of Washington; 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.

And a special thank you to the seven panels of industry judges and the many industry professionals who offered their time as mentors to the student teams in this competition!

Congratulations to all of the students who competed in the Solar District Cup Class of 2023–2024!

Learn more about the Solar District Cup.

Tags: Solar Market Research