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Solar Decathlon News Blog

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon News Blog provides regular updates about Solar Decathlon news and events. Learn what's happening now, and let us know what you think by leaving a comment.

Solar Decathlon Is Defining Experience for New York Solar Company CEO

July 23, 2014

Carol Laurie

David Schieren is the chief executive officer of a leading Long Island, New York, solar engineering and installation company. He’s also a U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon alumnus and outspoken advocate for the competition.

Schieren emphasizes the Solar Decathlon’s unique way of teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) provides participants with the experience they need for the clean energy workforce.

“There is simply no substitute for direct experience, and the Solar Decathlon provides an unparalleled opportunity to work with a real budget and collaborate with an interdisciplinary team on renewable energy, energy efficiency, construction, project management, marketing, communications, and fundraising,” says Schieren, CEO of EmPower Solar. “The Solar Decathlon played a pivotal role in my professional development because it gave me the ultimate crash course in STEM topics through both academic textbook learning and project/competition-based learning.”

Photo of a man with his arm around a woman in front of a modern-looking wooden house.

David Schieren and his wife, fellow former decathlete and alumni association cofounder Cristina Zancani, in front of Adaptive House, the competition entry from King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi at Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 in Versailles, France. (Courtesy of David Schieren, EmPower Solar)

Schieren was a graduate student in energy management when he joined the New York Institute of Technology’s Solar Decathlon 2005 team.

“When I first learned about the Solar Decathlon, I knew immediately that the scope of work as an engineering team member would encompass all the hands-on learning experience I was craving as a student of renewable energy and energy efficiency and that it would position me well for the workforce,” he says. Schieren spent two years as the energy team leader, with overall responsibility for engineering and joint responsibility for project management, fundraising, communication, and leadership efforts. The team finished in fifth place.

But his involvement with the competition didn’t end there. Schieren has attended every U.S. event since 2005. And in 2007, he cofounded the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Alumni Association, which provides a forum for former decathletes to connect, build relationships, share information, network about job opportunities, and advocate for renewable energy.

“For me and many competition alumni, the Solar Decathlon is a life-defining event. While I was already passionate about solar and sustainability, the competition transformed my passion into laser focus and clarity of purpose with experience to back me up,” he says. “The Solar Decathlon’s key lesson for me was that through research, positive collaboration, dedication, and hard work, we can use solar with energy efficiency and sustainable building practices to dramatically improve the standard of living.”

Schieren sings the virtues of the Solar Decathlon through his company’s yearly EmPower Solar Student Competition. Encouraging local high school students to discover the benefits of solar power, the competition combines STEM and creative components to communicate students’ research. To date, the Solar Student Competition has engaged hundreds of students and awarded more than $8,000 in scholarships. Best of all, the grand prize is a trip to the Solar Decathlon. Over the years, EmPower Solar has sent the winning teams to Solar Decathlons in Washington, D.C.; Irvine, California; and just recently, to Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 in Versailles, France.

Schieren also demonstrates his Solar Decathlon commitment through EmPower Solar’s hiring practices.

“I actively target decathletes for open positions at my company and recommend them to other recruiters. Solar decathletes are self-selecting ‘A’ players who have a deep passion for sustainability and an unyielding work ethic,” he says. “If I can’t find decathletes, I look for similar traits in other candidates, such as experience with STEM project-based learning and particularly competitions. There is just something about competitions that can show what people are made of and how dedicated they are.”

In addition to helping shape his career, the Solar Decathlon has had a powerful effect on Schieren’s personal life. During the 2005 competition, he met Cristina Zancani, a decathlete from the Rhode Island School of Design team. The two fell in love and eventually married. Today, Zancani, a cofounder of the Solar Decathlon Alumni Association, is EmPower’s senior architect and presently completing construction of the company’s new net-zero energy Solar Design Center.

Carol Laurie is the communications manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

 

 

Solar Decathlon Sponsors Make Everything Possible

July 23, 2014

By Carol Laurie

U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon sponsors know a good thing when they see it. After all, the Solar Decathlon is more than an award-winning competition and highly popular public exhibit. It’s also a proven workforce development program that prepares collegiate students for careers in clean energy. The Solar Decathlon uses blended methods (including classroom instruction and real-world application) to teach science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for building systems design and operation.

Solar Decathlon sponsors have a shared commitment to the goals of this inspiring competition, including STEM education, workforce development, and clean energy solutions. And in addition to supporting the goals that matter most to them, these sponsors have the opportunity to fulfill a variety of Solar Decathlon event needs.

For example, one of the most publicly visible sponsorship needs is event promotion. This sustaining-level sponsorship contribution will help drive attendance to the eight-day exhibit in Southern California through traditional and digital media outreach. In return, the official Solar Decathlon 2015 event promotion sponsor will receive top-level sustaining sponsor benefits, including high-profile recognition through online and traditional media, co-branding opportunities, and an extensive onsite presence. With these benefits, the Solar Decathlon 2015 event promotion sponsor will enjoy dedicated outdoor exhibit space within the Solar Decathlon village, speaking roles at ceremonies, naming rights to a pedestrian street in the village, logos on village signage, and full-page recognition in the Solar Decathlon 2015 Visitors Guide.

Photo of a group of cheering, smiling people in front of a large sign with a wide ribbon falling away a pair of giant scissors.

Solar Decathlon sustaining sponsors receive outstanding benefits, such as playing an active role in ceremonies like this ribbon cutting, which opened Solar Decathlon 2013. (Credit: Eric Grigorian/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

As Solar Decathlon Director Richard King says: “The Solar Decathlon has the power to reach millions, to educate, to influence, and to lead. Sponsors provide the power to make it all possible.”

It’s your time to shine. Join the Solar Decathlon sponsor family. For more information about our sponsor program, download the Solar Decathlon 2015 sponsorship brochure and contact Richard King to discuss how your organization can contribute to Solar Decathlon 2015.

Carol Laurie is the communications manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Balance of Power: Solar Decathlon Contest Requires Energy Efficiency and Power Production

July 17, 2014

By Carol Laurie

Not consuming energy is better than buying or producing it—even when that energy is generated by clean, renewable solar. That’s the message the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 is sending to decathletes through the Energy Balance Contest, which measures the energy each team house produces and consumes over the course of the competition.

The contest is divided into two subcontests: energy production and energy consumption. To earn full points in the energy production subcontest, teams must produce at least as much energy as they consume, achieving a net electrical energy balance of at least 0 kWh. Reduced points are earned for a net electrical energy balance between -50 kWh and 0 kWh. For the energy consumption subcontest, teams must limit their electrical energy consumption to 175 kWh over the course of the contest. This consumption level is significantly less than that of a comparably sized, newly constructed, code-compliant U.S. house.

Photo of a young man wearing an oven mitt and holding a pan of food above a stove.

Michael Kinard, a member of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Solar Decathlon 2013 team, prepares traditional southern cuisine for dinner guests from other university teams. To achieve high scores in the Solar Decathlon 2015 Energy Balance Contest, teams will have to use energy strategically when completing competition tasks such as cooking and hosting dinner parties. Credit: Eric Grigorian/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

“Teams will have to think carefully about energy use to score well in the Energy Balance Contest,” said Joe Simon, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition manager. “They will have to design houses that are extremely energy-efficient and will have to operate them intelligently.”

According to Simon, the Energy Balance Contest will require teams to complete all competition tasks—such as doing laundry, running the dishwasher, and hosting dinner parties—using approximately 60% of the energy consumed by the average house built today.

“Challenges presented by the Solar Decathlon through contests like Energy Balance require teams to establish strategic and sometimes creative strategies to win,” he said. “By encouraging innovation like this, the Solar Decathlon provides students with a unique and effective way of learning science, technology, engineering, and mathematics that prepares them for careers in clean energy.”

Carol Laurie is the communications manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Universitá Degli Studi di Roma TRE Wins Solar Decathlon Europe 2014

July 14, 2014

By Carol Laurie

Congratulations to Team Rhome from Universitá Degli Studi di Roma TRE, the winner of Solar Decathlon Europe 2014! The team’s Rhome for Dencity house received first place overall in the final award ceremony of the competition Saturday evening in Versailles, France.

Photo of a group of cheering people holding an Italian flag and a first-place trophy.

Members of Team Rhome celebrate their first-place win at Solar Decathlon Europe 2014. Credit: Solar Decathlon Europe/ValeriaAnzolin.com

Photo of a modern house with solar PV panels on its side and an Italian flag near the front entrance.

Winner of Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 is the Universitá Degli Studi di Roma TRE for its Rhome for Dencity house, pictured here. Credit: Solar Decathlon Europe /jflakes.com

Second place in this international competition went to the Atlantic Challenge team from Nantes, France, for its Philéas house. Team Prêt-à-Loger from Delft University, Netherlands, placed third for its house, A Home With a Skin.

Two of the 20 teams represented U.S.-European partnerships. Team Réciprocité (Appalachian State University and France’s Université d’Angers) placed ninth, and Team Inside Out (Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, and Germany’s University of Applied Sciences–Erfurt) placed 14th.

The final standings are:

Rank Team Score
1 Universitá Degli Studi di Roma TRE 840.63
2 ENSA Nantes, ESB, Audencia Group, Audencia Nantes, Ecole des Mines Nantes, ISSBA, IUT Nantes, Architectes Ingénieurs Associés, Atlansun, Institut des Matériaux Jean Rouxel, Medieco, Novabuild, SAMOA, and SCE 839.75
3 Delft University of Technology 837.87
4 University of the Arts Berlin and Technical University of Berlin 823.42
5 Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts – School of Engineering and Architecture 804.75
6 Universidad Tecnica Federico Santa Maria – Valparaiso and Université de la Rochelle – Espace Bois de l’IUT 802.42
7 University of Applied Sciences Frankfurt am Main 793.71
8 Technical University of Denmark 780.01
9 Université d’Angers and Appalachian State University 776.92
10 Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya – Barcelona 776.24
11 Chiba University 774.09
12 National Chiao Tung University 772.15
13 Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México and the Center of Research in Industrial Design and the School of Engineering and the School of Arts 760.17
14 Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, and University of Applied Sciences – Erfurt 657.46
15 Universisad de Castilla – La Mancha and Universidad de Alcala de Henares University 650.44
16 Costa Rica Institute of Technology – Cartago 588.8
17 King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi 508.15
18 Academy of Architecture and IIT Bombay 452.3
19 Technical University of Civil Engineering Bucharest, University Politehnica of Bucharest, and University of Architecture and Urbanism “Ion Mincu” 348.49
20 Université Paris-Est, ENSA Paris Malaquais, ENSA Marne la Vallée, ESTP Paris, Ecole des Ponts Paris Tech, ESIEE Paris, ENSG, and IFSTTAR 268.81

Congratulations to all the Solar Decathlon Europe teams!

Carol Laurie is the communications manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Solar Vie – Solar Life in Versailles

July 1, 2014

By Maureen Clapper

A brand new city sprang up—almost overnight—about 15 miles southwest of Paris. You won’t find a cookie-cutter template for design here, as each house is unique in function, form, and style. The one thing all of the houses have in common is they are designed, built, and tested to operate on pure, green, and clean solar energy.

This solar city, La Cité du Soleil, can be found between now and July 14 in the parc du château de Versailles. While the solar city became a reality over a short 10-day period, it was actually a project two years in the making. The project is the Solar Decathlon Europe, which evolved from the original U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Photo of a group of people with arms raised standing in front of a modern-looking house with large front windows and a rounded, fabric exterior.

Members of Team Inside Out (Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, and the University of Applied Sciences in Erfurt, Germany) gather for a group photo in front of TechStyle Haus, their Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 competition entry. (Credit: Kim Walterthum)

As the energy attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, I’ve been well-placed to watch this project evolve. In March 2012, U.S. Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin and France’s Minister for Housing Benoist Apparu signed a memorandum of understanding between the U.S. Department of Energy and the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transport, and Housing that established their collaboration to organize Solar Decathlon Europe 2014. Bits and pieces of information were released over time: the number of teams selected, the identity of the teams, and the selection of the site. Things seemed to move slowly from my perspective, but then I wasn’t designing a house along with more than 200 people on two different continents like the two U.S.-European teams participating in the competition: Team Inside Out (Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, and Germany’s University of Applied Sciences–Erfurt) and Team Réciprocité (Appalachian State University and France’s Université d’Angers).

Photo of a two-story house with visitors lining up to enter its front door.

Maison Réciprocité, the competition house of the Appalachian State University and Université d’Angers team, is fully constructed and ready for visitors at Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 in Versailles, France. (Credit: Kim Walterthum)

For me, the concept and the vision of this event started to become clear when we hosted these two teams at Embassy Paris in November 2013. Since then, it seems time has flown by. So here we are at opening week of Solar Decathlon Europe in Versailles. The French hosts boast that this competition has the greatest international diversity of any Solar Decathlon held to date. There are 20 teams representing 17 countries that have been on site reconstructing the houses they built and tested remotely, then disassembled, packed, and shipped to France for this competition. From June 16 to June 26, the teams worked around the clock to reconstruct their incredible jigsaw habitats.

If you can’t come to France to attend this event in person, I encourage you to check out the website and watch the 3-minute videos that cover the construction and beginning phases of the competition.

Maureen Clapper is the energy attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Paris.