This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

October 14, 2009

Team California Claims a Narrow Lead in the Solar Decathlon

Photo of a u-shaped house open on both ends, with solar panels covering its slightly inclined roof. In the center of the u-shape is a deck with patio furniture, on which a small crowd is lounging.

Team California took an early lead in the Solar Decathlon, in part because of wins in the Architecture and Communications contests.
Credit: Stefano Paltera/DOE Solar Decathlon

Team California is narrowly leading the 2009 Solar Decathlon as of October 13, with the 2007 winner, Team Germany, following in second place, and the University of Illinois close behind. Team California—consisting of students from Santa Clara University and the California College of the Arts—scored early on October 12 with a first-place finish in the coveted Architecture contest, with the second- and third-place spots going to Rice University and Virginia Tech, respectively. In the Market Viability contest, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette took top honors, followed by Rice University in second place, with Iowa State University and Team California tied for the third-place finish. Team California then leapt ahead of the competition on October 13 with a first-place win in the Communications contest, which judges how well the students convey information about their house during public tours and on their Web sites. Cornell University and Team Ontario/BC tied for second place in that contest. See the DOE press release on the Communications contest.

The Solar Decathlon is a competition involving 20 university teams from around the world designing and building homes that are completely powered and heated by solar energy. The teams have built their homes on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and are now facing off in 10 contests, of which half are juried and half are based largely on energy performance. The scores for the performance-based contests are based in part on real-time data collected from the houses. While the final winner for these contests won't be declared until the competition ends, this year the scores and standings reflect the ongoing results from those measurements, and the team rankings can potentially shift throughout the day. This ongoing tally also allows teams with well-performing homes to rank high early in the competition. For instance, the stellar performance of the homes from Team Germany and the University of Illinois currently place the teams in second and third place, although neither team has landed in the top three in any of the declared contests.

From here, the competition will race quickly towards its conclusion, with the winner of the Lighting contest to be named on October 15 and the winners of the remaining contests, as well as the overall winner, declared on October 16. The Solar Decathlon will be open for tours on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, through October 18 (with the exception of October 14). Meanwhile, the real-time tallies will continue to accumulate, possibly shifting the results, so be sure to check the latest results (updated every 15 minutes) on the Solar Decathlon Web site.