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DOE's Solar Decathlon draws student teams worldwide

Shown from the back, this house built by the team from University of Maryland finished eighth. The house featured two decks, clerestory windows and a spacious kitchen and dining area.

Photo credit: Steven Skoczen

They come from around the world to participate in the Solar Decathlon, a contest focused on creating a livable, solar-powered house on a shoe-string budget.

Sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), 20 student teams come to the Mall in Washington, D.C., to compete in a series of events meant to test the houses they have spent months on -- building, designing, testing and decorating.

This will be the third year for the event, which also occurred in 2002 and 2005. The winner of both competitions was University of Colorado-Boulder.

Each team submits a proposal for consideration, which is reviewed by a group of engineers, scientists and officials from the DOE and NREL. Criteria include innovation of design, fundraising and team support, organization and planning, and curriculum integration. Chosen teams receive $100,000 to test and build their house, given in equal increments of $50,000.

The following colleges and universities are competing in the 2007 decathlon: Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Georgia Institute of Technology, Kansas State University, Lawrence Technical University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania State University, Santa Clara University, Team Montréal (École de Technologie Supérieure, Université de Montréal, McGill University), Texas A&M University, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Universidad de Puerto Rico, University of Colorado, University of Cincinnati, University of Illinois, University of Maryland, University of Missouri-Rolla and University of Texas at Austin.

In true decathlon spirit, each house is involved in ten contests, with a point value assigned to each category, ranging from 100 to 200 points.

The contests include architecture, engineering, market viability, communications, comfort zone, appliances, hot water, lighting, energy balance and getting around. Each house must be able to sustain regular household tasks, such as cooking and running a computer, as well as be able to power an electric car.


For information on the Solar Decathlon, visit http://www.eere.energy.gov/solar_decathlon/.

For information on the Dept. of Energy, visit http://www.energy.gov/.

For information on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, visit http://www.nrel.gov/.


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