Author: DOE Office of Technology         Published: 10/26/2020        DOE

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

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.

Teams compete in one of multiple divisions, each structured around a distinct district use case. A winner is selected for each division, based on the quality of their solar energy system design. The strongest designs provide the highest offset of annual energy and greatest financial savings. This will be determined by a techno-economic analysis conducted by students and evaluated by judges. The goal is to design, model, and present the most reliable, resilient, and cost-effective system possible.

Students will present their solutions to judges at a virtual live competition event, from which the winners will be selected and announced.


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. As competitors, students:

  • Build 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 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.

2020 AND 2021 PROGRAMS

The Solar District Cup Class of 2020 was the inaugural cohort of the competition. Students competed from September 2019 through April 2020. Further details about the 2020 competition, including a list of winners, can be found here.

The Class of 2021 program was launched on April 30, 2020, and will span the 2020-2021 academic year. Choose “follow” at the top of this page to be sure that you hear about the program and select “submit your solution” if you’re planning to be part of a collegiate team.


To learn more about the program and the current competition:

To learn more about the Class of 2020:

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.