Solar Decathlon set for mid-Oct.

Aug. 1, 2009
Twenty teams of university students from around the world will compete this October in the fourth biennial 2009 Solar Decathlon. The U.S. Department of Energy sponsored event challenges students to design and develop houses that can provide their own energy from sunlight.

Washington — Twenty teams of university students from around the world will compete this October in the fourth biennial 2009 Solar Decathlon. The U.S. Department of Energy sponsored event challenges students to design and develop houses that can provide their own energy from sunlight. The 20 collegiate teams from the U.S., Canada, Spain and Germany will each build a completely self-sufficient solar powered house, showcasing energy-efficient amenities and smart home systems that provide reduced carbon emissions without sacrificing the comfort of modern conveniences.

“The Solar Decathlon highlights President Obama's goal of improving our national security and transforming the economy by using off-the-shelf, clean energy technologies to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil, reduce our carbon emissions, and protect the environment,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “As part of the building competition, the next generation of green engineers, architects, designers, and professionals gain valuable experience that will help them to lead America toward a clean energy future.”

DOE's Solar Decathlon, which takes place Oct. 9-18 on the National Mall in Washington, consists of 10 individual contests that evaluate the teams' skills in architecture, home design and communications. The homes constructed by the teams must produce enough electricity and hot water from solar panels to perform all the normal functions of a home — from powering the lights and washing clothes, dishes and the cooling to powering home electronics and maintaining a comfortable temperature. This year, a new net-metering contest will evaluate each home's ability to produce its own power. The competition focuses on cutting-edge energy efficient and renewable energy innovation while providing a unique green jobs training opportunity for each of the students.

The start of the competition marks the culmination of more than two years of hard work by the student teams. The 20 teams will assemble their homes on the National Mall in early October. Following the Opening Ceremony on Oct. 8, the homes will be open for public tours Oct. 9-13 and Oct. 15-18.

This is DOE's fourth Solar Decathlon competition since premiering in 2002 with subsequent competitions in 2005 and 2007. On average, each Solar Decathlon competition has drawn more than 100,000 visitors to the National Mall.

The colleges and universities competing in the 2009 Solar Decathlon are Cornell University; Iowa State University; Ohio State University; Penn State; Rice University; Team Alberta (University of Calgary, SAIT Polytechnic, Alberta College of Art + Design and Mount Royal College); Team Boston (Boston Architectural College and Tufts University); Team California (Santa Clara University and California College of the Arts); Team Missouri (Missouri University of Science & Technology and the University of Missouri); Team Ontario/BC (University of Waterloo, Ryerson University and Simon Fraser University); the 2007 winner Technische Universitãt Darmstadt; Universidad de Puerto Rico; Universidad Politécnica de Madrid; University of Arizona; University of Illinois; University of Kentucky; University of Louisiana at Lafayette; University of Minnesota; University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; and Virginia Tech.

Santa Clara University is competing in the Solar Decathlon for a second time. The collaboration with California College of Arts in San Francisco has created Team California. The partnership combines SCU's strength in engineering and CCA's expertise in architecture.

“Our design is based on the ‘California lifestyle’ of indoor/outdoor living and spaces that function as much to frame the outdoors as to shelter the interiors,” said Raphael Stargrove, CCA architecture student.

“We're trying to show that you don't have to sacrifice the beauty of your home to have an energy efficient house,” said Allison Kopf, SCU sophomore and student project manager.

The University of Illinois has opted for a heartland aesthetic in its design of the barn-like Gable Home. The south facade features an array of solar panels to power the house, and large shading devices that protect the house from large heat gains in the summer, while allowing the heat in during the winter.

The Gable Home was designed to meet Passive House standards, a rigorous performance evaluation that requires optimal performance and environmentally sensitive design. The house is highly insulated and incorporates advanced window design and installation technology. Such specifications reduce air infiltrations significantly and help the home act like a thermos, maintaining a comfortable, consistent indoor temperature.

The Cornell team has created a circular house with no exterior windows. Instead it uses an interior courtyard, skylights and sliding and collapsible glass walls. Lighting and solar thermal controls minimize climate control needs while maintaining a pleasing and healthy productive human environment.

The University of Arizona team has created a structure with the catchy name of Solar Energy Efficient Dwelling, or SEED [pod]. The passive strategies include natural ventilation strategies, efficient volume management, strategic placement of insulation, and shading strategies. The active strategies include efficient heating and cooling systems as well as electronically controlled ventilation shutters. The home will integrate a greenhouse to act as a biological filter for air and water while providing food for the inhabitants.

DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy sponsors the Solar Decathlon, in partnership with its National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which manages the event. Additional information is available at

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