The 2013 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon begins on Thursday and things are heating up in anticipation. First held in 2002, the Solar Decathlon is a biennial competition that brings together collegiate teams from around the nation. Teams design, build, and operate a solar powered home that combines affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence while maintaining optimal energy production and efficiency. The Solar Decathlon has always been held in Washington D.C., but this year the event has moved to sunny Southern California. Held at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, this year’s event will be open to visitors for eight days over two weekends.
Over 30 teams are competing in this years’ Solar Decathlon (including international events) including 9 returning teams. The young innovators have a chance to share their ideas with a new audience this week, with over 250,000 expected to tour the grounds. Participation gives students valuable real world experience and prepares them for work in the renewable energy sector. The houses showcased over the next two weeks are the result of nearly two years of planning, problem-solving, and construction. Scoring is divided between ten areas, each worth 100 points. Five contests, architecture, engineering, communications, affordability, and market appeal, are voted on by a jury of industry experts. The other five, comfort zone (climate control), hot water, appliance, home entertainment, and energy balance, are measured contests. At the end of weekend two, the team closest to 1,000 points takes home first prize.
According the the Department of Energy, “the competition also supports the Obama administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy – to reduce energy costs for American families, cut carbon pollution that causes climate change, and strengthen U.S. energy security”. With over two thousand student competitors, the competition is definitely focused on making sustainability a priority for the next generation. The world is at a crisis point with climate change and fossil fuel dependence; without rapid adjustments, negative consequences will build exponentially. It’s only through education that we can hope to create a sustainable future quickly enough.
So grab your family or friends and check out the future of home building at the Orange County Great Park this weekend. While you’re there, take a look at the California Challenge electric vehicle competition and the Kids Discovery Village science activities. It’s sure to be an afternoon with something for everyone to enjoy! Check back here next Tuesday when we report on our visit to the Solar Decathlon.
When: October 3-6, 10-13 from 11a-7p
Who: U.S. Department of Energy
Where: The Orange County Great Park
How much: Free!
Why: To witness the future of renewable energy technology