How To Shine In The Solar Village

At noon Eastern Standard Time today — the second day of competition for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon in Denver — the Northwestern University team was sitting in first place, according to scores released on the competition website.

The Solar Village, where all 13 teams’ houses are standing for the competition, is now open to the public.

With scoring under way on three of the 10 competition categories — Heath & Comfort, Appliances, and Home Life — Northwestern was tied with Swiss Team and UC Berkeley/U of Denver on the three segments in Health & Comfort — temperature, humidity and indoor air quality.

According to the DOE, teams earn full points in Health & Comfort for maintaining:

  • Temperatures between 68 degrees Fahrenheit and 74 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Relative humidity between 35 percent and 60 percent
  • Indoor CO2 levels at less than 1,000 parts per million
  • A tight building envelope that minimizes airflow from the outside to the inside of the house and from the inside to the outside

Northwestern’s house, Enable, was designed for the baby boomer market in Chicago, according to the team. Bill Bach, student project manager for the Northwestern team, said in the team video that they worked closely with their target demographic to determine what people want in a home.

Bach added that the home’s “living walls” improve air quality by filtering the air continuously, and the drywall improves indoor air quality by actively removing toxins from the air.

The house has a 6.5-kW solar array that provides slightly more power than the home uses, and a battery system allows the house to consume solar energy at night and acts as a backup power source. 

Scores for the competion change throughout the day, so you can see the most recent updates by visiting

View all the team houses here.

Lead image credit: U.S. Department of Energy

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Jennifer Delony, analyst for TransmissionHub, started her career as a B2B news editor in the local and long-distance telecommunications industries in the '90s. Jennifer began covering renewable energy issues at the local level in 2005 and covered U.S. and Canadian utility-scale wind energy as editor of North American Windpower magazine from 2006-2009. She also provides analysis for the oil and natural gas sectors as editor of Oilman Magazine.

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