The Department of Energy’s Biennial Solar Decathlon

Energy HomeSince late September of 2002, the United States Department of Energy has hosted a solar decathlon to inspire the energy leaders of the future to create innovative, solar housing. Students from universities all over the world form teams and bring all their collective architectural and engineering knowledge to this unique competition. The goal is to construct efficient, cost effective solar houses that would appeal to the consumer market, focusing specifically on energy efficiency, energy production, comfort and livability, and attractive looks. These homes are designed to show the public the affordability of living in a clean energy home while simultaneously providing excellent training for the students as they prepare to take on engineering and architectural jobs in this field.

The first decathlon was held in Washington D.C. and resulted in a “solar village” built by 14 individual teams and visited by over 100,000 people in the course of two weeks. After judges sized up all of the solar habitats based on their efficiency, comfort, and aesthetics, it was determined that the University of Colorado was the best of the bunch. Since 2005, the solar decathlon has been held every two years allowing over 17,000 students from more than 170 universities to flex their creative muscles and build better homes. The decathlon has picked up a lot of steam since it started and now has off-shoots in Europe and China.

Much recognition has been paid to the solar decathlon by several sources. Last year, it was recognized by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance as being one of the year’s Bright Ideas, an award given to those finding innovative solutions to public issues. They are praised for their commitment to future architects and engineers, and show no signs of stopping. The next decathlon will be held in Irvine, CA from October 3-13, 2013 and will feature 20 teams of students from around the world looking to bring new light to solar housing.

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