Skip to main content
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Flickr
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • Google+
Denver, Colorado
October 5-15, 2017

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.

Über Smart Eco-Inventions Designed by Students

September 23, 2016

By Alexis Powers

Imagine building a single-family house with only hand-powered tools. Sounds crazy, right? Well, students from Clemson University built not just one such house, but two. They built a local version to stay in South Carolina and a traveling version to demonstrate this concept at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 competition. Their Sim[PLY] construction method allows an average person to assemble pre-cut, numbered components with just stainless steel zip ties. It’s like a three-dimensional puzzle of a 1,000-square-foot home…that’s also a totally livable home.

Students from Clemson University developed the Sim[PLY] structural building system, which uses a milling machine to cut plywood according to computer-generated cutting instructions. Photo from Clemson University Solar Decathlon 2015 Team

Students from Clemson University developed the Sim[PLY] structural building system, which uses a milling machine to cut plywood according to computer-generated cutting instructions. Photo from Clemson University Solar Decathlon 2015 Team

If your mind isn’t blown yet, now imagine a window shade that is activated by the sun’s heat—no cords, wands, or tabs needed. This kind of responsive architecture was just one component of an ecologically responsible house designed for the 2013 competition by students from the Catholic University of America, George Washington University, and American University. Their house, designed specifically for returning U.S. military veterans, used a network of activity sensors to analyze the lifestyle habits of its residents and recommend therapeutic solutions.

Photo of the exterior of the Team Capitol DC house.

Team Capitol DC developed an adaptable shading screen that improves energy performance in response to the exterior climate conditions. Photo from Jason Flakes/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

While we’re at it, how about we eliminate clumsy, antiquated technologies such as light switches and remote controls? The Solar Decathlon 2011 team from the Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology programmed an Xbox Kinect system to be the command center of their eco-conscious home. Here, residents could use gestures to operate appliances and lights or turn on the TV just by sitting on the couch. This internet-connected house was even capable of conserving power generated by its solar panels if the forecast called for cloudy weather. Such smart home devices are still impressive five years later as the internet of things concept gains a foothold in today’s market.

Photo of a house diagram displayed on an iPad.

Students from the SCI-Arc/Caltech team designed an iPad app to control the lights, appliances, and entertainment system of their house during the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 competition. Photo from Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

A comprehensive list of student ingenuity would go on and on. There’s the geopolymer concrete developed by UNC Charlotte students that replaces the conventional binding material responsible for 5%–8% of the worldwide carbon footprint with a waste product from coal production. There’s also the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York’s Growlarium that essentially puts a greenhouse around a regular house, then ventilates it automatically for efficiency, comfort, and year-round vegetation production. There are enough examples to complete dissertations and start companies, both of which have been done in several cases.

A canopy covering the enclosed portion of the University at Buffalo team’s GRoW Home serves as a trellis for plants, shades the house and deck to reduce cooling loads, and provides outdoor living space. Photo from Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

A canopy covering the enclosed portion of the University at Buffalo team’s GRoW Home serves as a trellis for plants, shades the house and deck to reduce cooling loads, and provides outdoor living space. Photo from Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

A major goal of the Energy Department and the Solar Decathlon is to speed up delivery of emerging technologies to the marketplace. While student-driven innovation has always been present at each biennial event, the 2017 competition will feature a new Innovation Contest for the first time. With cash prizes on the line, Solar Decathlon 2017 motivates students to exercise originality, solution-driven thinking, and impact analysis like never before.

Teams participating in Solar Decathlon 2017 are now hard at work designing houses powered entirely by the sun. On September 15, the students submitted their second set of deliverables to competition organizers. Although specific details won’t likely be revealed until closer to the start of the competition on October 5, 2017, follow Solar Decathlon on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms to see these ideas develop in the meantime. Prepare to be inspired.

Energy Department Announces Dates and New Contests for Solar Decathlon 2017 in Denver, Colorado

August 24, 2016

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017 student design competition, which challenges collegiate teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive, will take place October 5 – 15, 2017, in Denver, Colorado, Energy Department and Denver officials announced today.

The 14 collegiate teams competing in 2017 will focus on creating high-performance houses that reflect current market conditions, innovative building and the best in sustainable living.

Student teams will provide free public tours of their energy-efficient houses featuring cutting-edge technologies on these dates:

  • Thursday, Oct. 5–Monday, Oct. 9, 2017
  • Thursday, Oct. 12–Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017

“The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon challenges and inspires students to become our next green energy industry leaders,” said Under Secretary of Energy for Science and Energy Dr. Franklin Orr. “The students in the Solar Decathlon competition gain invaluable hands-on experience on appealing designs, sustainable materials and cutting-edge technologies.  Denver’s passion to create eco-friendly developments serves as a model for communities throughout the country and the world.”

“Denver is proud to work with the U.S. Department of Energy to host this fun and engaging academic competition in our city,” said Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “This opportunity not only further elevates the Denver metro area’s leadership in energy efficiency, but also allows us to spotlight our burgeoning solar energy industry.”

The 2017 competition has been enhanced with challenging new contests to motivate students and boost the public’s interest in accessible, sustainable living. The upcoming event is designed to present solutions for today’s clean energy marketplace, with emphases on innovation in all areas of sustainable living; water use and re-use strategies; smart energy use and market potential.

The competition will retain emphases on cost-effective architectural design; energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, appliances and electronics; occupant health and comfort; and communications.

For the first time, teams are eligible for cash prizes. Each team that successfully builds a solar house at the site and finishes the competition will receive $100,000. The third-place finisher will receive $150,000, the second-place finisher $225,000, and the first-place finisher will receive $300,000.

The Solar Decathlon 2017 is a true public-private partnership, bringing together the U.S. Department of Energy; Energetics, Inc., the program administrator for the event; the City of Denver; Denver International Airport (DIA); and private corporate sponsors to facilitate a dynamic event in the Denver metro region.

The event will take place near the 61st & Peña “smart stop” on the new commuter rail A-line connecting Denver International Airport to downtown Denver, within 10 minutes of DIA and 40 minutes of downtown Denver. Denver, DIA, Panasonic and Xcel Energy are collaborating on a transit-oriented, sustainable development at this rail station. The development will be built out to emphasize sustainable, vibrant urban living, linking employment opportunities with new housing choices along Denver’s eastern corridor.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017 competition will feature several additional activities:

  • The Solar Decathlon Competition and Public Exhibit — Free of charge, the public is invited to tour the competition homes, learn about energy efficiency and sustainability, and engage with student teams. Opening celebrations, contest awards and a final competition awards presentation will allow attendees each day to share in the competition’s excitement. Activities are being planned for consumers and professionals of all ages, promising to engage a wide demographic around sustainability topics.
  • Community Festival —Food trucks, pavilions and family activities will create a festival atmosphere.
  • Sustainability Expo — Forward-thinking companies and nonprofits will share strategies, products and technologies that can be incorporated into homes today and in the future.
  • Professional Development and Consumer Workshops— Organizers and sponsors will host workshops featuring an array of green building and sustainability topics for professionals and consumers.
  • Education Days — Multiple field trips are planned for K-12 students with dedicated educational activities and tours of the teams’ houses, as well as professional development for teachers.

407 Days and Counting: Solar Decathlon 2017 Dates Announced

August 24, 2016

By Solar Decathlon

This week, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that Solar Decathlon 2017 will take place in October 2017, in Denver, Colorado. The competition houses will be open to the general public for free tours on nine days over two long weekends:

  • Thursday, Oct. 5–Monday, Oct. 9, 2017
  • Thursday, Oct. 12–Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.

Why the wait? Over the next 407 days, the 14 collegiate teams selected to compete will be designing, building, transporting, and bringing to life their fully functional solar-powered houses. While the two-year wait between competitions may seem long for Solar Decathlon fans, it is a race to the finish line for the decathletes that participate in the biennial event.

And while you are waiting…consider becoming a sponsor or volunteering. The Solar Decathlon is not possible without the support and dedication of generous sponsors and committed volunteers.

The location of the next Solar Village will be the 61st and Peña “smart stop” on the new commuter rail line connecting the Denver International Airport to downtown Denver. This development, which emphasizes sustainable, vibrant urban living, is an ideal location for area residents and visitors to experience cutting-edge demonstrations of zero-energy-ready living.

The Solar Decathlon allows visitors to get a hands-on intensive consumer course in sustainability, offering a public demonstration of energy efficient design, clean solar energy technologies, smart home solutions, water conservation, electric vehicles, and sustainable materials.

The Solar Decathlon 2017 event in Denver offers something for everyone:

  • The Solar Decathlon Competition and Public Exhibit—Free of charge, the general public is invited to tour the competition homes and engage with student teams. Opening celebrations, Contest awards, and Final Competition Awards are presented throughout the event, allowing attendees to share in the winning excitement.
  • Community Festival—In partnership with the City of Denver, Denver International Airport, and other regional partners, the Solar Decathlon will include activities to draw a wide variety of attendees. Food trucks, pavilions and family activities will create a festival atmosphere.
  • Sustainability Expo—Forward-thinking companies and non-profits will have the opportunity to share strategies, products and technologies that can be incorporated into homes today and in the future.
  • Professional Development and Consumer Workshops—Ongoing throughout the event, Solar Decathlon organizers and sponsors will collaborate to host workshops featuring both professional- and consumer-focused topics.
  • Education Days—The Solar Decathlon also offers multiple fieldtrips for K-12 students with dedicated educational activities and tours of the teams’ houses, as well as professional development for teachers.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ for event updates. It will be here before you know it!

Add this event to your calendar

Energy Department Announces Denver as Next Location for Solar Decathlon Competition in 2017

March 11, 2016

By Solar Decathlon

At an event today in Denver, Colorado, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Under Secretary for Science and Energy, Dr. Franklin Orr, joined Mayor Michael Hancock to announce Denver as the host city for the next U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition in the fall of 2017.

Dr. Orr revealed that Denver won the bid to host this biennial event, in which student teams compete to design, build, and operate cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive solar-powered houses. The teams from across the country and around the world will be competing for $2 million in prize money.

In the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017, 16 teams will compete in 10 contests, ranging from architecture and engineering to home appliance performance. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends aesthetics and modern conveniences with maximum energy production and optimal efficiency. Watch highlights of the 2015 event here.

“As one of the top 10 metro areas for solar installations and sunny days, Denver is a great choice to host the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon,” said DOE Under Secretary Orr. “This competition gives students a unique opportunity to take real action on climate change and shape our sustainable future by encouraging the kind of innovation we’ll need to meet our nation’s clean energy goals. I congratulate Denver on becoming our next Solar Decathlon host city, and I wish the participating students the best of luck as they prepare for next year’s competition.”

The competition is planned to be staged near a new development close to Denver International Airport. The area around the 61st and Peña Commuter Rail Station is positioned to become a national model for sustainable, transit-oriented, greenfield development that can enhance the region’s overall economic competitiveness. It will do so by linking employment opportunities with a wide range of housing choices through increased transportation options and building value in existing and new neighborhoods along the East Corridor.

“Denver is proud to work with the U.S. Department of Energy to bring this fun and engaging academic competition to our city,” said Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “This opportunity not only highlights the Denver metro area’s leadership in energy efficiency but allows us to spotlight our burgeoning solar energy industry.”

Over the next 18 months, the competing teams will raise funds; design and build their 800-square foot, 100-percent solar-powered houses; and then transport their houses to the Denver competition site.

The teams are strongly interdisciplinary: drawing together students of architecture, engineering, computer science, marketing, and other disciplines to carry out their projects.

In addition to the site announcement, DOE announced Energetics Incorporated of Columbia, Maryland, as the new program administrator. Energetics will organize, manage, and conduct the competition. It will also help support the department’s commitment to improving the nation’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education efforts.

For the first time in the competition’s history, teams will compete for $2 million in prize money. Each team that brings an eligible house to the competition will receive prize money of at least $100,000 to help with construction and transportation expenses. The top-place finishers will receive more. For example, first place will receive $300,000, second place $225,000, and third-place $150,000.

The solar-powered houses developed by the teams will represent a diverse range of design approaches and building technologies. They will cater to a variety of target markets and geographic locations, climates and regions, including urban, suburban, and rural settings.

In the fall of 2017, the competing student teams will showcase their solar-powered houses at the competition site to the public, providing free tours of renewable energy systems and energy-efficient technologies, products, and appliances helping homeowners nationwide save money by saving energy. On average, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon draws about 60,000 visitors per competition, including more than 500 middle school students who attend the showcase event through scheduled field trips. The Orange County Great Park, located between Los Angeles and San Diego, California, hosted both the 2013 and 2015 competitions. Previous competitions were held in Washington, D.C.

The colleges and universities competing in Solar Decathlon 2017 are:

  • École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Lausanne, Switzerland)
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Daytona State College (Daytona Beach, Florida)
  • Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Georgia)
  • HU University of Applied Science Utrecht (Utrecht, Netherlands)
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, Missouri)
  • Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois)
  • Rice University (Houston, Texas)
  • Syracuse University (Syracuse, New York)
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham (Birmingham, Alabama)
  • University of California at Berkeley (Berkeley, California)
  • University of California, Davis (Davis, California)
  • University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Las Vegas, Nevada)
  • Washington State University (Pullman, Washington)
  • Washington University (St. Louis, Missouri)
  • West Virginia University (Morgantown, West Virginia).

The 16 teams include eight returning teams and eight new teams. Learn more about the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017 at http://www.solardecathlon.gov/.

Energy Department Announces 16 Collegiate Teams To Compete in Solar Decathlon 2017

January 20, 2016

Solar Decathlon

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced the 16 collegiate teams selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017. The teams, from colleges and universities across the United States and around the world, will now begin the nearly two-year process of building solar-powered houses that are affordable, innovative, and highly energy-efficient.

“President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy aims to create a safer and more sustainable planet while ensuring American students and workers have the skills they need for the challenging jobs of today and tomorrow,” said DOE’s Solar Decathlon director, Richard King. “The Solar Decathlon competition supports the department’s commitment to improving the nation’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education efforts and to building a more knowledge-intensive workforce.”

Over the coming months, the 16 Solar Decathlon teams will design, construct, and test their houses before reassembling them at the Solar Decathlon 2017 competition site, which will be announced soon. In the Solar Decathlon, teams compete in 10 contests—ranging from architecture and engineering to home appliance performance—while gaining valuable hands-on experience in clean energy design. The winner of the competition will be the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. For the first time in the competition’s history, the Solar Decathlon 2017 teams will be competing for $2 million in prize money.

In mid-2017, the student teams will showcase their solar-powered houses at the competition site to the public and provide free tours of renewable energy systems and energy-efficient technologies, products, and appliances that today are helping homeowners nationwide save money by saving energy. The solar-powered houses will represent a diverse range of design approaches; building technologies; target markets; and geographic locations, climates, and regions, including urban, suburban, and rural settings.

The following teams have been selected to compete in Solar Decathlon 2017:

  • École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Lausanne, Switzerland)
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Daytona State College (Daytona Beach, Florida)
  • Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Georgia)
  • HU University of Applied Science Utrecht (Utrecht, Netherlands)
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, Missouri)
  • Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois)
  • Rice University (Houston, Texas)
  • Syracuse University (Syracuse, New York)
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham (Birmingham, Alabama)
  • University of California at Berkeley (Berkeley, California)
  • University of California, Davis (Davis, California)
  • University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Las Vegas, Nevada)
  • Washington State University (Pullman, Washington)
  • Washington University (St. Louis, Missouri)
  • West Virginia University (Morgantown, West Virginia).

The 16 teams include eight returning teams and eight new teams.

Archives

Categories

Entries (RSS) | Comments (RSS)