The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

Behind the Scenes at the US Solar Decathlon

Over the next two weeks the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon takes place in Irvine, California. Members of the media got a sneak-peek walkthrough yesterday at how 19 teams have translated their visions for energy efficiency, solar energy, and a laundry list of sustainable living features. (The event's location, the Orange County Great Park, is itself a model of reuse and sustainability, formerly home to the El Toro Marine base.)

It was interesting to see the teams' different designs and deployments of solar energy. Schools we chatted with had solar arrays ranging from around 5 to almost 10 kilowatts (kW) of capacity, all geared toward providing all or more of their house's energy needs, one of the Solar Decathlon's 10 judged criteria. Those with larger arrays acknowledged that takes a bite out of the "Affordability" judging metric, so they had to figure out ways to get costs back down, from utilizing reclaimed materials to different styles of furniture, to extra-thick insulation.

Nearly all had some version of rooftop PV module arrays, except one: New Jersey's Stevens Institute of Technology's 5.8-kW array used Dow Powerhouse Solar Shingles, essentially invisible from ground level, on a portion of their roof to provide power (the other half of the roof was "green" with plants.) A Dow rep in the house noted they weren't quite ready to have their product trotted out at the last Solar Decathlon, but were very excited to be on display here. Check out more in our video interview and house tour below.

Middlebury College, meanwhile, took a different route with its solar array, essentially moving it off the roof and putting what amounts to a ground-mount off the back patio, providing shading and the template for a "solar path" in an envisioned community solar deployment. The 7.2-kW system's Lumos frameless modules were designed early on, to allow more light to filter through.

Equally interesting was how some houses were specifically designed for their local environments. The Czech Technical University team had to explain how their AIR house would be installed and oppositely oriented from a house in California, and that cooling in their environment isn't as much of a factor. The team from Arizona State and the U. of New Mexico, inspired by the desert and majestic Saguaro cactus, maintain several patios to foster microclimates. The Missouri University of Science and Technology's house envisions residents that are "young and technically savvy." Team Ontario's house offers a more rustic feel as a seasonal/vacation dwelling in a northern climate.

What impressed me perhaps most of all was just how walk-in livable some of these houses were, from curb appeal to interior design touches — mass market appeal is one of the judging criteria, after all. But it's actually the case for two teams: Middlebury's house will head back to Vermont to become student housing for some very lucky undergrads. And Team Capitol DC's Harvest Home will be donated to Wounded Warrior Homes to welcome and comfort a deserving veteran.

We'll be posting inside looks at many of the Solar Decathlon houses over the duration of the event. We'll also talk with sponsors and partners who support them, sharing their insights on the teams' inspirations and results, and how the Solar Decathlon itself has evolved. Stay tuned!

Read more solar energy news here.

Untitled Document


Welspun Commissions 52-MW Solar Power Plant in India

Vince Font Leading Indian solar developer Welspun Renewables has commissioned the construction of a massive solar plant in the state of Maharashtra. The planned 52-megawatt (MW) solar plant will be located in the city of Baramati. The...

Regional News from the July/August 2015 Digital Edition of Renewable Energy World

Renewable Energy World Editors EcoFasten Solar announced that it launched a new mounting "Rock-It System" that it would be displaying during Intersolar. Product compliance was determined through testing per UL Subject 2703, which reviews integr...

SkyPower Inks $2.2 Billion Deal for Massive Solar Power Plant in Kenya

Eric Ombok, Bloomberg Kenya’s Energy Ministry and SkyPower Global Ltd. will sign a $2.2 billion agreement on Sunday that paves the way for the Canadian company to develop a 1-gigawatt solar project in East Africa’s biggest economy. The solar pro...

Making a Match: How Solar Companies and Banks Hook Up

Jennifer Runyon The announcements are fairly frequent: SunPower Partners with Admirals Bank for $200 Million Solar Loan Program, Deutsche Bank to Lend $1 Billion for Japanese Solar Projects, Financing Partnerships Drive North Carolina's So...
Jim is Contributing Editor for, covering the solar and wind beats. He previously was associate editor for Solid State Technology and Photovoltaics World, and has covered semiconductor manufacturing and related industries, ...


Volume 18, Issue 4


To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:


Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon



Presenting at Infocast's Utility Scale Solar Summit 2015

Oct. 21, 2015 4:30-5:15pm Albie Fong, National Director, Solar Frontier ...

StartUp Green

AREI, American Renewable Energy Institute, in partnership with ...

Utility Scale Solar Summit 2015

Oct. 21, 2015 4:30-5:15pm Albie Fong, National Director, Solar Frontier ...


Behind Every Good Decision

When something about your business isn’t working, you set out to c...

Clean Energy Patents Maintain High Levels in First Quarter, Solar L...

U.S. patents for Clean Energy technologies from the first quarter of 201...

An Overwhelming Paradox

I’m sure we’re all very familiar with the feeling of being o...


Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now