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Solar Decathlon Heads to California for 2013 Event

Photo showing the aerial view of several structures with solar panels on top.

Aerial view of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

January 11, 2013

For the first time, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon will be held outside of Washington, D.C. This fall, 20 collegiate teams will head to the Orange Country Great Park in Irvine, California, to compete in this award-winning showcase of energy-efficient and solar-powered houses.
The free event will take place in a specially constructed village Oct. 3–13, 2013. The competition houses will be open to visitors on eight days over two weekends. Public hours will be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily:

  • Thursday, Oct. 3–Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013 
  • Thursday, Oct. 10–Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013. 

The Solar Decathlon will be the main attraction for the Energy XPO at the Orange County Great Park, which will be an exposition of clean energy technology products and education. 

Applying NREL’s Expertise to this Challenging Competition
Since the event’s conception in 1999 and debut in 2002, NREL has provided the organizational and technical support for the Solar Decathlon. NREL’s work on this award-winning event includes:

  • Defining and adjudicating the competition rules
  • Conducting safety and building code reviews of the collegiate team house designs and assemblies
  • Implementing a temporary, ground-laid electrical microgrid 
  • Providing outreach communications through a variety of mediums. 

More than 50 NREL employees contribute to the project during each competition cycle, collectively engaging a unique skill set to produce an educational exhibit for the public and a competitive sport for collegiate architects and engineers. Each competition results in 20 unique solutions to rules that incentivize the teams to exceed the latest standards, apply innovative technologies, and showcase market-ready solutions.

Accelerating the Market for Solar Technology
Solar Decathlon educates millions of people about the benefits of accelerating the integration of energy-efficient and solar-energy technologies into marketplaces worldwide. Since 2002, the Solar Decathlon has: 

  • Educated the public about the benefits, affordability, and availability of clean energy solutions by generating widespread media coverage and harnessing digital tools to reach tens of millions of people
  • Involved 112 collegiate teams, which pursued a multidisciplinary approach to study the requirements for designing and building energy-efficient, solar-powered houses 
  • Established a worldwide reputation as a successful educational program and workforce development opportunity for thousands of students
  • Affected the lives of nearly 18,000 collegiate participants and thousands of K-12 students through on-site programs for regional schools
  • Generated industry involvement through partnerships and sponsorships
  • Leveraged a 10:1 investment by teams to U.S. Department of Energy funding
  • Expanded internationally to currently include 65 participating teams and nearly 10,000 students participating in three different competitions around the world: Solar Decathlon Europe 2012, Solar Decathlon China 2013, and Solar Decathlon 2013. 

Featuring 10 Contests and 20 Collegiate Teams
The Solar Decathlon is a competition that challenges collegiate teams to design and build energy-efficient houses powered by the sun. These teams spend almost two years creating houses to compete in 10 contests:

  • Architecture
  • Market Appeal
  • Engineering
  • Communications
  • Affordability
  • Comfort Zone
  • Hot Water
  • Appliances
  • Home Entertainment
  • Energy Balance.

Each contest is worth 100 points, making 1,000 total points possible. The team with the most points at the end of the competition wins. The winning team produces a house that:

  • Balances energy production and consumption
  • Is cost-effective, attractive, and easy to live in 
  • Maintains comfortable indoor living conditions 
  • Supplies energy to household appliances for cooking, cleaning, and entertainment 
  • Provides sufficient hot water.

The 20 student teams selected to participate in Solar Decathlon 2013 represent four countries and two continents and include 9 returning teams, 11 new teams, and four international teams.

  • Arizona State University and The University of New Mexico
  • Czech Republic: Czech Technical University
  • Kentucky/Indiana: University of Louisville, Ball State University, and University of Kentucky
  • Middlebury College
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology
  • Norwich University
  • Santa Clara University
  • Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology
  • Stanford University
  • Stevens Institute of Technology
  • Team Alberta: University of Calgary
  • Team Austria: Vienna University of Technology
  • Team Capitol DC: The Catholic University of America, George Washington University, and American University
  • Team Ontario: Queen's University, Carleton University, and Algonquin College
  • Team Texas: The University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College
  • Tidewater Virginia: Hampton University and Old Dominion University
  • University of Nevada Las Vegas
  • The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  • University of Southern California
  • West Virginia University.

These teams and their projects embody a diverse range of design approaches, building technologies, target markets, geographic locations, climates, and regions, including urban, suburban, and rural settings.