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Source: US National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Dec. 17, 2020

35 Student Teams from 34 Schools Advance as Finalists in Collegiate Competition

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar District Cup Collegiate Design Competition has announced that 35 teams from 34 schools are advancing as finalists in the Class of 2021 program. These finalists are progressing from the original 59 participating teams from 57 collegiate institutions announced in October 2020, demonstrating notable progress on their designs.

“These finalists are working to transform how we think about our energy landscape and build new, secure, reliable power systems,” said Becca Jones-Albertus, director of the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office. “Their solutions are both creative and practical, and we look forward to seeing what they do next.”

The Class of 2021 is the second cohort to compete in the Solar District Cup, a program that 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 technologies across mixed-use districts.

Teams compete in one of three divisions, each of which is structured around a specific district. A winner is selected for each division based on the quality of their solar-plus-storage system design. The strongest designs provide the highest offset of annual energy and greatest financial savings, which is determined by a techno-economic analysis that the students perform and judges evaluate.

Since announcing 59 participating teams from 57 collegiate institutions in October 2020, students have made significant strides on their assigned district use cases. Teams were required to submit a Progress Deliverable Package in November as their first project milestone in the program that spans the entire academic year. The 35 finalist teams will continue developing their projects before presenting to a panel of industry judges at a virtual event on April 25-26, 2021. At the end of the event, winners from each division will be selected.

“Teams are pushing the envelope on what is possible when you consider evaluating multiple buildings, parking lots, and undeveloped areas to help a campus or urban district meet its sustainability goals in a cost-effective way,” said Joe Simon, NREL project manager and one of the competition’s organizers.

The collegiate institutions competing as Class of 2021 finalists are:

Alfred University
Appalachian State University
Arizona State University (2 teams)
Boise State University
Cornell University
East Tennessee State University
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Illinois Institute of Technology
Illinois State University
Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis
Marquette University
Miami University
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Santa Clara University
Stevens Institute of Technology
Tennessee Tech University
The Ohio State University
The University of Alabama
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Massachusetts Lowell
The University of Texas at Austin
The University of Toledo
The University of Virginia
Triton College
Tulane University
University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
University of California, Irvine,
University of California, San Diego
University of Colorado Boulder
University of Maryland
University of Michigan
University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus (2 teams)
University of Wisconsin-Madison

In its second year of programming, the Solar District Cup is seeing a wide range of collegiate institutions as finalists, including minority-serving institutions, ivy league schools, state universities, and schools in U.S. territories.

The competition organizers are pleased to see such diversity in the finalist teams. “We’re excited to expand the breadth of finalist collegiate institutions,” Simon said. “Continuing our all-virtual format piloted in the spring of 2020, all teams compete on equal-footing regardless of financial resources to travel or format of collaborating.”

Students are working on designs for an assigned district use case based on real energy and infrastructure data provided by the corresponding partners. The three district use case partners for the Class of 2021 are the City of Denver/Auraria Higher Education Center, the University of Central Florida, and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Teams are also supported by partnering organizations, which include Aurora Solar Inc., HeatSpring LLC, and Solar Power Events. These partners provide access to design software, online educational courses, and networking opportunities with industry professionals. Their involvement is critical to student success in the competition, as well as continuing their education and entering the renewable energy workforce.

Between now and April 2021, students will refine their solar-plus-storage designs to meet Final Deliverable Package requirements and prepare their pitches for the competition event. Teams are expected to continue seeking faculty and industry mentorship through the duration of the competition.

If you are interested in engaging with the Solar District Cup as a judge, partner, or industry mentor, contact the Solar District Cup organizers. You can also follow the Class of 2021 as they advance through the competition.

Learn more about the Solar District Cup.