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

September 28, 2011

U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 Underway

Photo looking down on a large group of people, some holding banners.

Participants in the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon 2011 gather for the event kick-off in Washington, D.C.
Credit: Stefano Paltera, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

Teams from Purdue University and Parsons the New School for Design/Stevens Institute of Technology, on September 27, tied for first in the affordability contest of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011. Both teams earned the maximum 100 contest points, which pushed Purdue to the top of the standings. Team Belgium from Ghent University was the runner-up in the contest, which is the first of 10 events in the Solar Decathlon. The first-time challenge rewards teams that build houses with estimated costs at or below $250,000. The competition is on-going on the National Mall's West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C.

Overall, 19 collegiate teams are represented in the showdown to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are affordable, energy efficient, attractive, and easy to live in. Contests are completed at different times. On September 29, a jury will name the winner of the engineering contest based on criteria such as efficiency and innovation. A day later, communications professionals will pick the the team deemed best at educating others about their houses, their experiences, and their projects as winner of the communications contest. The overall winner of the event will be named on October 1, the day before the Solar Decathlon closes.

Competing this year are teams that came from universities in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia, as well as Belgium, Canada, China, and New Zealand. The Solar Decathlon, launched in 2002 and organized by DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is free to the public. In addition to educating the public about how to save energy and save money, the Solar Decathlon provides unique training to the nation’s next generation of engineers and architects. Over the last decade, the competition has prepared approximately 15,000 students to become future innovators and entrepreneurs in clean energy technology and efficient building design.

The houses are open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekends, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays. Visitors are able to tour the houses, gather ideas to use in their own homes, and learn how energy-saving features can help them save money. Fans may also follow the competition in real time on Facebook at and Twitter at @Solar_Decathlon. See the DOE press release.

Editor's Note:On September 30, Solar Decathlon organizers corrected the Affordability Contest results after discovering a minor error in the scoring spreadsheet calculations. The new numbers have changed the outcome of the juried contest, which used a professional estimator and gave teams a maximum score for achieving a target construction cost of $250,000 or less. With its E-Cube more accurately valued at $249,568.09, Team Belgium (Ghent University) moved into the tie for first place with Parsons the New School for Design and Stevens University (which includes Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy at The New School). The cost estimation of Parsons NS Stevens did not change. Purdue University, which had been awarded first place earlier, dropped into second, as the value of its INhome was estimated at $257,853.70 instead of $249,568.09. See the Solar Decathlon blog.