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

September 25, 2002

Solar Decathlon Competition Gears Up

The competition phase of the Solar Decathlon begins on September 26th, and the Solar Village-consisting of the 14 competing solar houses- is steadily taking shape on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The university teams and their partially constructed homes all arrived safely, despite treks from as far away as Texas, Missouri, Colorado, and even Puerto Rico. And as the Solar Village takes shape, so does the Solar Decathlon Web site, which now features daily photos of the competition. During the competition, the site will also feature team diaries, scoring results, and rankings. See the Solar Decathlon Web site.

The competition will be open to the public starting Thursday, but for those of us unable to visit in person, the Web site now provides images and descriptions of each entry. Through these new Web pages, you can see the diversity of approaches used by the teams and gain an appreciation for the creativity and innovation of the entries. Although every team combines energy efficiency and solar technologies in its home, the teams are using a variety of strategies to maintain comfortable interior temperatures, including water-filled walls and columns for heat storage, radiant floor heating, heat pumps, natural ventilation, and shutters and awnings. For daylighting, some teams are using high-tech skylights and translucent walls. The Texas A&M team even designed and built its own appliances. And although it isn't part of the competition, many teams took extra efforts to use sustainable materials in their homes.

A big factor in the competition, of course, is the weather. The teams had to prepare for the competition knowing that record highs for this time of year in the nation's capital have reached the mid-90s, and record lows have descended into the mid-30s. But the temperature forecast is favorable, with predicted highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s or 60s. The outlook for sunshine, however, is less favorable, with showers expected on Thursday and continuing into the weekend. See the Weather Channel forecast.

The weekend weather forecast may deteriorate, since at present, Tropical Storm Isadore is expected to return to hurricane force and head north, likely bringing more rain to the region this weekend. And another tropical storm, Lili, is expected to sweep through the Caribbean heading northwest late this week, potentially bringing more rain to the nation's capital next week. See the Weather Channel's Tropical Storm Tracker.