Shine Bright:

Solar Essay Contest for High School Students


To inspire the next generation of solar leaders to lend their voice to the future of renewable energy, Solar and Storage Industries Institute (SI2) is launching a national essay contest for high school students in 9th through 12th grade.


The objective of the contest is to raise awareness about the benefits of solar energy, encourage students to consider careers in clean energy, and build support for solar energy and storage among legislators. 

Stay Informed on the SI2 Essay Contest

Fill out the form to receive updates on the essay contest, upcoming deadlines, contest updates, and more.

Thank You to Our Contest Sponsors

PSG Energy Group
SEIA logo
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Nautilus Solar

Submission Guidelines

  • An essay (maximum 500 words) answering the below prompt, attached as a PDF file to the submission portal. File should be named as follows: surname_firstname_date
  • A 2-4 minute video of you reading your essay, uploaded to the SI2 shared drive. Videos may include images, voiceovers, acting, creative editing, etc., but this is not required to win. Videos may NOT include explicit content or swearing.

Essay Prompt

Write a persuasive letter to a leader in your community on the importance of solar energy. Include personal insights and stories to support your position. Consider at least one of the following angles:

  • Economics: Why would you be interested in education and employment in the solar energy industry?
  • Environmental: How can solar energy contribute to an increase in climate readiness?
  • Social/Cultural: What cultural/social values in your local community do you see that support the increased use of solar energy?
  • Political: As a constituent, why would a politician that considers solar development earn your vote?
  • Technical: What are the opportunities to advance solar technology in your area?

A “community leader” can be any influential person in your community (e.g., mayor, county executive, congressperson, senator, principal/superintendent, etc.). You are not required to send the letter to this person (though you are welcome to do so!). Using a first-person narrative voice and formal letter format is appropriate.

How it Works

A solar-focused prompt will be provided, and students will submit a 500-word essay along with a 2–4-minute video recitation of the essay in order to enter. Entries will be reviewed by a panel comprised of solar companies and other experts. The winning essayists will be invited to Washington DC to receive an award and meet their local member of Congress. The winners will also receive a cash prize and national recognition on SI2 and SEIA’s website and social media platforms.  

Five panelists, chosen from solar companies, and two educators will be invited to join a panel of judges to evaluate the essay submissions and select two finalists and the winner.


Winners and Prizes

Three students will be chosen to win, one in each of the following categories:

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Best Overall Essay and Video

All submissions will be considered for this category

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Most Creative Video

Video recitations that include creative editing will be considered for this category. It is not a requirement to enhance your video to enter the contest.

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Most Persuasive Essay

All submissions will be considered for this category

Each winner will receive:

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Cash Prize

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Free Trip to Washington, DC

*The trip to Washington, DC will take place in June 2024. Students will get the opportunity to meet their local congressperson(s) and visit the SEIA headquarters. Expenses, including travel, lodging, and food, will be paid by SI2 for the student and one guardian. SI2 and SEIA will share all contestants’ videos and essays on their websites and social media platforms.

More Information

  • Eligibility: Students in the 50 United States 13 years or older in grades 9-12 or the equivalent. The contest will be announced on September 15th, 2023. The contest opens December 1st at 9:00am EST and closes March 1st, 2024, at 5:00pm EST. One submission will be accepted per student. Winning students will be notified by email on or before May 1st, 2024.
  • Contact: Sarah Conley-Ballew, SI2 Assistant Director of Development at [email protected] with any questions or concerns.
  • Judging: Judging will be performed by a panel of solar industry companies, educators, and other experts.

Scoring Rubric

CategoryExcellent (20)Good (10)Acceptable (5)
Material organization (logical interpretation of the subject, adherence to topic)Conveys a strong understanding of the subject and adheres to the topic consistentlyConveys an understanding of the subject, but some aspects are incomplete or confusingDoes not demonstrate a basic understanding of the subject nor adherence to the topic
Mechanics (e.g., grammar, spelling, punctuation, vocabulary, style)Essay contains few to no mechanical errors, and writing style is appropriate and facilitates ease of readEssay contains multiple mechanical errors, but does not detract from understandability of the essayMechanical errors detract from the understandability and impact of the essay
Incorporation of contestants’ own unique experience or insightConnects personal experience or insights to the contestant’s argument in a way that enhances the impact of the essayIncludes personal experience or insight, but does not connect to or enhance the impact of the contestant’s argumentDoes not include or connect personal experience or insight
Creativity (applicable to videos with enhanced editing only)Video significantly enhances essay presentation with effects to create visual impactVideo includes effects, minorly enhancing the overall visual impactVideo includes effects, but does not enhance the overall impact of the essay
PersuasivenessEssay conveys a strong and compelling, well-articulated argument that persuades the audience to support the contestant’s positionEssay articulates the argument but lacks supporting evidence and/or persuasive arguments to support the contestant’s positionEssay does not convey a compelling nor persuasive argument to support the contestant’s position
DeliveryDelivery techniques (articulation, pace, volume, vocal expressiveness) make the video presentation compelling, and the speaker appears prepared and knowledgeableDelivery techniques (articulation, pace, volume, vocal expressiveness) make the presentation understandableDelivery techniques (articulation, pace, volume, vocal expressiveness) detract from the understandability and impact of the presentation

Legal Terms and Conditions

1. Eligibility: Shine Bright: Solar Essay Contest for High School Students (the “Contest”) is sponsored by the Solar and Storage Industries Institute (“SI2”) and is open only to those who submit a qualifying submission package (defined below) and who are in grades 9-12 as of the date of entry. The contest is only open to legal residents of The United States and is void where prohibited by law. Employees of the Solar and Storage Industries Institute (the “Sponsor or “SI2”) their respective affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, suppliers and their immediate family members and/or those living in the same household of each are not eligible to participate in the Contest. The Contest is subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations. Void where prohibited.

2. Agreement to Rules: By participating, you agree to be fully unconditionally bound by these Rules, and you represent and warrant that you meet the eligibility requirements set forth herein. In addition, you agree to accept the decisions of SI2, the Sponsor, as final and binding as it relates to the content. The Contest is subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws.

3. Contest Period: Entries will be accepted via a submission form that will be made available via the SI2 website on December 1, 2023, and ending March 1, 2024. All online entries must be received by March 1, 2024. 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. Contest winners will be notified in early May 2024.

4. How to Enter: The Contest must be entered by completing this form and uploading your submission package. A complete submission package will include all requested information, a video, a written essay, and accompanying citation list. The entry must fulfill all Contest requirements, as specified, to be eligible to win a prize. Entries that are not complete or do not adhere to the rules or specifications may be disqualified at the sole discretion of SI2. You may enter only once, and you must fill in the information requested. You may not enter more times than indicated by using multiple email addresses, identities or devices in an attempt to circumvent the rules. If you use fraudulent methods or otherwise attempt to circumvent the rules your submission may be removed from eligibility at the sole discretion of SI2.

5. Prizes: A panel of judges will evaluate the submissions and select prize-winners for each category who will be rewarded with a monetary prize. One winner in each category will receive $1500 and a trip to Washington, DC, in June 2024 to meet the student’s local congressperson(s) and visit SEIA headquarters. Expenses, including travel, lodging, and food, will be paid by SI2 for the student and one guardian. A selection of the most compelling submissions will be featured on the SI2 website and social media accounts and may also be used by sponsoring organizations and businesses at the discretion of SI2. We encourage contestants to also share their submissions on their own social media accounts and tag us. Actual/appraised value may differ at the time of prize award. The specifics of the prize shall be solely determined by the Sponsor. No cash or other prize substitution permitted except at Sponsor’s discretion. The prize is non-transferable; any and all prize related expenses, including without limitation any and all federal, state, and/or local taxes shall be the sole responsibility of the winner. No substitution of prize or transfer/assignment of prize to others or request for the cash equivalent by winners is permitted. Acceptance of prize constitutes permission for SI2 to use the winner’s name, likeness, and entry for purposes of advertising and trade without further compensation, unless prohibited by law.

6. Winner selection and notification: A panel of judges will evaluate the submissions and select prize-winners in each category who will be rewarded with a monetary prize. Winners will be announced and invited to participate in an in-person visit to Washington DC. Winners will be notified via email to the email address they entered the Contest within five (5) days following the winner selection. SI2 shall have no liability for a winner’s failure to receive notices due to winners’ spam, junk e-mail or other security settings or for winners’ provision of incorrect or otherwise non-functioning contact information. If the selected winner cannot be contacted, is ineligible, fails to claim the prize within 15 days from the time award notification was sent, or fails to timely return a completed and executed declaration and releases as required, prize may be forfeited, and an alternate winner selected.

The receipt by the winner of the prize offered in this Contest is conditioned upon compliance with any and all federal and state laws and regulations. ANY VIOLATION OF THESE OFFICIAL RULES BY ANY WINNER (AT SPONSOR’S SOLE DISCRETION) WILL RESULT IN SUCH WINNER’S DISQUALIFICATION AS WINNER OF THE Contest AND ALL PRIVILEGES AS WINNER WILL BE IMMEDIATELY TERMINATED.

7. Rights Granted by you: By entering this content you understand that SI2 anyone acting on behalf of SI2, or its respective licensees, successors and assigns will have the right, where permitted by law, without any further notice, review or consent to print, publish, broadcast, distribute, and use, worldwide in any media now known or hereafter in perpetuity and throughout the World, your entry, including, without limitation, the entry and winner’s name, portrait, picture, voice, likeness, image or statements about the Contest, and biographical information as news, publicity or information and for trade, advertising, public relations and promotional purposes without any further compensation.

8. Terms: SI2 reserves the right, in its sole discretion to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Contest should (in its sole discretion) a virus, bugs, non-authorized human intervention, fraud or other causes beyond its control corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness or proper conduct of the Contest. In such a case, SI2 may select the recipients from all eligible entries received prior to and/or after (if appropriate) the action taken by SI2. SI2 reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any individual who tampers with or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operation of the Contest or website or violates these Terms & Conditions.

SI2 has the right, in its sole discretion, to maintain the integrity of the Contest, to void votes for any reason, including, but not limited to multiple entries from the same user from different IP addresses; multiple entries from the same computer in excess of that allowed by Contest rules; or the use of bots, macros or scripts or other technical means for entering.
Any attempt by an entrant to deliberately damage any website or undermine the legitimate operation of the Contest may be a violation of criminal and civil laws and should such an attempt be made, SI2 reserves the right to seek damages from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law.
9. Limitation of Liability: By entering you agree to release and hold harmless SI2 and its subsidiaries, affiliates, advertising and promotion agencies, partners, representatives, agents, successors, assigns, employees, officers and directors from any liability, illness, injury, death, loss, litigation, claim or damage that may occur, directly or indirectly, whether caused by negligence or not, from (i) such entrant’s participation in the Contest and/or his/her acceptance, possession, use, or misuse of any prize or any portion thereof, (ii) technical failures of any kind, including but not limited to the malfunctioning of any computer, cable, network, hardware or software; (iii) the unavailability or inaccessibility of any transmissions or telephone or Internet service; (iv) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Promotion; (v) electronic or human error which may occur in the administration of the Promotion or the processing of entries. All entries agree to comply with the

10. Disputes: THIS Contest IS GOVERNED BY THE LAWS OF United States AND Washington, D.C., WITHOUT RESPECT TO CONFLICT OF LAW DOCTRINES. As a condition of participating in this Contest, participant agrees that any and all disputes which cannot be resolved between the parties and causes of action arising out of or connected with this Contest, shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action, exclusively before a court located in Washington, D.C. having jurisdiction. Further, in any such dispute, under no circumstances will participant be permitted to obtain awards for, and hereby waives all rights to claim punitive, incidental, or consequential damages, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, other than participant’s actual out-of-pocket expenses (i.e., costs associated with entering this Contest), and participant further waives all rights to have damages multiplied or increased

11. Winners List: To obtain a copy of the winner’s name or a copy of these Official Rules, visit the Contest webpage at

12. Sponsor: The Sponsor of the Contest is SI2.