U.S. Government to Fund Solar Decathlon

The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory wants to fund the design and construction of a 500 square foot solar powered house that will compete in an event called the Solar Decathlon.

GOLDEN, Colorado – Global solar radiation received by the house without artificial external augmentation will be the only source of energy to be used for power, except for energy stored in a battery system at the beginning of the first day of the event. A Request for Proposal was issued last year and amended recently to change a number of terms in the bidding process that concern the rules and regulations for the event. Up to 20 university teams from universities across North America will participate in the week long event in Washington, DC, sometime next year. The U.S. Department of Energy is a major sponsor of the Solar Decathlon, along with NREL, the American Institute of Architects and BP Solar. The event is an intercollegiate design competition among student teams that will design, build and operate solar- powered houses, and the competition is open exclusively to colleges, universities and post-secondary educational institutions. “The 21 st century will present us with challenges that demand more sophisticated energy technologies,” says the RFP. “These new technologies must be cost effective and environmentally sound, releasing us from dependence on uncertain fossil-fuel supplies while improving our well being.” The winner of the Solar Decathlon will be the team that can score the most points from ten contests that test the effectiveness of their design. “Clean, plentiful sources of energy that power healthy places to live and work are keys to improving quality of life and longevity,” it explains. “By participating in the Solar Decathlon you will be showing the nation, and the world, how to build a better future.” The ten events are based on three guiding principles for the competition: – Supplying the energy requirements necessary to live and work using only the solar energy incident on the building during the competition, – Exemplifying design principles that will increase public awareness of the aesthetic and energy benefits of solar energy, resulting in increased utilization of these design principles and technologies, and – Stimulating the acceleration of research of renewable energy, particularly in the area of buildings applications. The houses must be able to supply all the energy needed for its occupants to survive and prosper, and the supply of domestic energy and the energy required for a home-based business will be tested. The competition will quantify energy production and productive output, as well as end-use efficiency due to the limited amount of sunlight that strikes the surface of a house. Design is important to improve effectiveness, efficiency, function and comfort, and also plays a key role in purchase decisions. The house must be visually attractive and compelling to entice positive purchase decisions, especially when new technology is being introduced. As a critical part of the competition, emphasis will be placed on dwelling livability, aesthetics of structure and system components, as well as the integration of dwelling with energy systems. “Everyone needs a comfortable space in which to live protected from winter snow, wind and rain, and summer heat,” it continues. All structures must be modular and assembled prior to the contest. No basements are allowed, and the house must not disturb the ground that it sits on. Entries for the Solar Decathlon will be selected through a proposal process. Up to 20 teams may be selected for entry and awarded amounts of $5,000 each. Proposal are limited to 20 pages, including diagrams, charts or appendices. Selection will be based on Technical Innovation and Content (50 percent), Organization and Project Planning (20 percent), Curriculum Integration and Special Considerations (15 percent), and Fund Raising and Team Support (15 percent).

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