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

September 29, 2010

DOE Announces Dates for the Solar Decathlon 2011

Photo of partially built small houses and construction clutter on the National Mall, with the Capitol Building in the distant background.

In less than one year, the National Mall will bustle with construction as teams prepare for the Solar Decathlon. This photo is from the second day of assembly at last year's event.
Credit: Angel Borrego Cubero/DOE Solar Decathlon

DOE announced on September 23 that the Solar Decathlon 2011 will hold its opening ceremony on September 22, 2011, and will be open to the public from Friday, September 23, through Sunday, October 2. The DOE Solar Decathlon is a competition that challenges collegiate students from across the globe to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, attractive, and easy to live in. Student teams generally spend nearly two years designing and partially building their solar homes on or near their campuses. The teams then transport their homes to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where they complete construction of the homes and then operate them for more than a week while competing in ten contests.

The 2011 competition will feature 16 U.S. teams from 14 states, including California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia. The competition will also include teams from Belgium, Canada, China, and New Zealand. While getting the houses to the National Mall is a challenge for all teams, with most shipping their houses on flatbed trucks, the trip will be particularly difficult for the teams in Hawaii, Belgium, China, and New Zealand, as they will likely ship their houses by barge and then load them onto trucks for delivery to Washington, D.C.

Once on the National Mall, the teams will compete in ten contests that give the Solar Decathlon its name. Juried contests select the teams that best meet the competition's criteria for architecture, market appeal, affordability, engineering, and communications (that is, communicating their accomplishments to the public). In addition, monitors in each house will determine which teams do the best job at keeping their home in the comfort zone; delivering 15 gallons of hot water over a 10-minute period each day; washing and drying laundry and operating other appliances, including a refrigerator-freezer and a dishwasher; and meeting all of the home's energy needs. A tenth contest judges the teams on home entertainment and includes criteria that are measured—such as lighting the house, boiling water to simulate cooking, and operating a television and computer—as well as two dinner parties and one "movie night" that are awarded points by the attendees, who come from neighboring teams.

The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. The Solar Decathlon educates both student participants and the public about how to integrate affordable clean energy products into homes to save money and reduce energy use, and it provides participating students with unique training to enter the clean energy workforce. This will be DOE's fifth Solar Decathlon competition. See the DOE progress alert and the Solar Decathlon Web site.