17-Month Solar Decathlon Starts in Washington

Students from eleven universities across the United States have started to design and construct homes that are fully powered by solar energy.

WASHINGTON, DC, US, 2001-04-23 <SolarAccess.com> The Solar Decathlon began in Washington on Earth Day, in a national competition to build the most efficient and attractive solar house in the country. The event will conclude in September 2002, when each team will transport its modular building to Washington and assemble it within four days on the National Mall. Each building must have sufficient solar energy for heating and cooling and hot water, and it must generate electricity for lights, appliances and an electric car. “This contest will help shape the house of the future while developing energy solutions for our nation,” says Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. “The Solar Decathlon will involve architecture and engineering students in the design and construction of residential solar energy applications — something this country needs as we pursue a variety of energy options.” Scientists and staff from the Department of Energy and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado will provide tutorials on building design and solar energy. Each team will receive $5,000 toward the costs of constructing their 500 to 800 square foot solar home. The rest of the cost of designing, constructing and transporting the houses will be raised by the students. Judging next fall will be based on how well the students blend aesthetics and modern conveniences with maximum energy production and optimal efficiency. Entries will test a variety of skills and will be judged on design, space heating, space cooling, lighting, communications, hot water, refrigeration, appliances, transportation and presentation. A jury of respected architects will judge visual beauty and attractiveness, while DOE and NREL officials will measure energy production and use of each building. The Solar Decathlon is sponsored by DOE, NREL, BP Solar and the American Institute of Architects. Participating schools include Carnegie Mellon University of Pennsylvania, Crowder College of Missouri, Tuskegee University of Alabama, Virginia Tech, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Maryland, University of Missouri, University of Puerto Rico, University of Texas at Austin, University of Texas A&M and the University of Virginia. The Solar Decathlon consists of ten contests, each of which is worth 100 points. The objectives are illustrate how solar energy can improve mankind’s quality of life; to teach the solar decathletes and the public about how energy is used in daily lives, to demonstrate that market-ready technologies exist that can meet the energy requirements of daily activities by tapping into the sun’s power, and to meet these needs while providing a beautiful structure. Decathletes will be required to provide all the energy for an entire household, including a home-based business and the transportation needs of the home and business. During the event, only the solar energy available within the perimeter of each house may be used to generate the power needed. The United States consumes 96 quadrillion British Thermal Units (quads) of energy each year, of which commercial and residential buildings use more than one third. The U.S. will consume 127 quads annually by 2020, and residential energy use is projected to increase by 28 percent, outpacing population growth. “Although consumers may know little about renewable energy, studies have shown that utility customers are interested in renewable sources of energy,” says background information on the event. “The more customers learn about renewable energy, the more interested they become, especially in solar and wind power. Residential customers are even willing to pay more per month on their electrical bills for power from renewable sources.” The Solar Decathlon was launched last October, and student teams were selected last month. The current session in Washington is an opportunity for teams to attend informational sessions and select a ‘building site’ on the Mall by lottery. By this October, teams must have their own Web site live and linked to the Solar Decathlon Web site and, by November, a design report is due. A final design report is due in June, so the solar decathletes can transport their houses to Washington .


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