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Photo of Solar Decathlon Director Richard King being interviewed by a videographer.

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 Welcomes Edison International as Host Utility Sponsor

March 23, 2015

By Carol Laurie

Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison, is returning as a sustaining sponsor of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon by becoming the 2015 competition’s host utility sponsor.

“Edison International recognizes the skills needed for Southern California Edison’s future workforce. For this reason, we focus some of our educational funding on programs that prepare students to excel in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields,” says Ted Craver, chairman and CEO of Edison International. “The Solar Decathlon provides hands-on learning that motivates young people to pursue opportunities in STEM, which is why Edison International is proud to support this award-winning competition.”

Photo of a man with a computer tablet demonstrating something to another man and a woman.

At Solar Decathlon 2013, Ted Craver, chairman and CEO of Edison International (left), and Tammy Tumbling, director of philanthropy and community investment of Southern California Edison (center), visit with a University of Southern California team member. Edison International returns as a Solar Decathlon sustaining sponsor in 2015. (Credit: Eric Grigorian/U.S. Department of Energy)

Edison International’s sponsorship provides much of the event’s infrastructure and furnishings (such as tents, tables, chairs, and signage) as well as a temporary interconnection of bidirectional electricity flow between Southern California Edison’s electric grid and the Solar Decathlon village microgrid. In addition, Edison International will reach out to Southern California Edison customers to educate and encourage them to attend the Solar Decathlon public exhibit and provide staff members the opportunity to serve as volunteers during the public exhibit.

“We’re so pleased to welcome Edison International back as a sustaining sponsor in 2015,” says Richard King, director of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. “Its generous support makes so much possible. With Edison International’s help, excess energy generated by the team houses will be supplied to the Orange County community—and when demand for energy exceeds supply, the village will be able to continue operating.”

Edison International, which was also a sustaining sponsor of Solar Decathlon 2013, plans to display Southern California Edison’s Hybrid-Powered Mobile Energy Unit within the Solar Decathlon village. This traveling exhibit will feature program literature, educational materials, and energy efficiency technologies and displays.

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

California State University, Sacramento, Builds Reflect Home To Showcase Its City

March 16, 2015

By Ernie Tucker

Sacramento is nicknamed the City of Trees, so it made sense for the California State University, Sacramento, team to showcase nature in its U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 project. The team’s Reflect Home does just that by embracing the city’s sense of expansive greenery.

The team examined elements throughout the city to come up with a contemporary design that combines indoor and outdoor living spaces.

“We wanted to reflect Sacramento not only in the house’s architecture but its openness, including the California Great Room, which transitions to the back yard,” says decathlete Rosni Pann, the team’s project executive. “Everything about the home really shows what Sacramento is about and how we approach things. We’re warm and inviting. That’s Sacramento.”

Graphic of a modern indoor living area that opens to the outside.

Reflect Home’s California Great Room features contemporary design that combines indoor and outdoor living spaces. (Courtesy of the Solar Decathlon 2015 California State University, Sacramento, team)

While incorporating features throughout the Reflect Home to make it both ultra-efficient and affordable, the team’s focus was on ensuring a seamless transition from indoors to outdoors.

“We really wanted to bring the outside in. It does this in an elegant way,” Pann says.

Upon entering, visitors can see not only the spacious living room and kitchen but also the back yard, which is separated from the interior by accordion doors.

“In Sacramento, we’re fortunate to have the weather so that we can use that outdoor space most of the year. We’re a community that loves to be outside, to have family and friends over. But you can also have privacy by closing the doors,” says Pann.

Graphic of a modern house with solar panels on the roof.

The California State University, Sacramento, Reflect Home showcases nature and the Sacramento community’s love of the outdoors. (Courtesy of the Solar Decathlon 2015 California State University, Sacramento, team)

The team plans to begin construction in mid-March on a campus lot. Work could last several months—and then the team hopes to disassemble the house and repeat the process a second time to improve efficiency.

“We don’t want our first time assembling it to be at the competition,” Pann says.

Watching this unfold will also serve as a sort of living laboratory on sustainable construction.

“Because it’s on campus, all the students—and residents of Sacramento—will know what the Solar Decathlon is all about,” Pann says. “We’re encouraging everyone to come by and people in the community to mentor us.”

Learning to integrate a number of disciplines, ranging from marketing to interior design and construction, has been a fascinating process.

“We have so many departments working on this. That’s been one of the most interesting things about this project,” Pann says. “It’s fun to see how all these people are coming together, and everybody wants to bring something.”

The team encountered some headwinds early on in fundraising. But now, with more tangible signs of progress, such as the start of construction, buzz is building. In addition, the strong reputation of the school’s construction management program has helped the decathletes gain support.

Pann, who will graduate this May, has already begun working full-time as a project engineer for a Sacramento building company, which is a job she landed as the result of previous internships in construction.

Now, as they head toward construction, she thinks ahead about seeing the project take shape in Irvine, California, and expects to feel “intense joy, relief, and pride. When we complete this house, it will be amazing.”

And even when it’s part of the Southern California landscape, the Reflect Home will still represent the spirit of Sacramento, always welcoming the outdoors and sharing its warmth for guests.

Ernie Tucker is a member of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon communications team.

Missouri University of Science and Technology Adds a Solar Nest

March 2, 2015

By Ernie Tucker

The Missouri University of Science and Technology team is building the latest addition to its campus colony of student-designed, energy-efficient houses. The team is creating a “nest” to compete in Solar Decathlon 2015. After the October competition, the Nest Home—designed for a growing family—will return to the Rolla, Missouri, campus to take its place alongside the school’s 2002, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2013 Solar Decathlon competition houses as part of a student housing and research site.

“Our team has been around so long, it enables us to see the effects of the projects from the past,” says Mary Puleo, a junior from St. Louis who is the Nest Home project manager.

Years of Solar Decathlon participation have enabled the university’s vision to extend beyond the competition to include a range of renewable energy outreach initiatives within the community. The team holds three to six events each month—hosting Scout troops, offering community and student showcases, and spreading the word about sustainable living.

Photo of a group of smiling students.

Members of the Missouri University of Science and Technology team gather at the Orange County Great Park on Jan. 9. (Credit: Carol Laurie/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Puleo says that having a team in so many Solar Decathlons means that “we have a really strong support system.” For example, this year’s team includes several 2013 decathletes who are helping Puleo and about 60 teammates prepare for the 2015 solar showdown in Irvine, California. Students are involved throughout the entire process, from initial proposal through conceptual design and final construction. This experiential learning opportunity allows undergraduates to gain hands-on experience outside the classroom and work closely with both consultants and skilled tradesmen.

The 2015 house is designed to serve a family “from a full nest to an empty nest” and will be built using local recycled materials as much as possible. The core structure consists of three repurposed shipping containers that form a deconstructed triangular space similar to a bird’s nest. Although this open-floor concept is designed to work for a couple and small children in two bedrooms, it also allows the possibility of adding or subtracting recycled containers to modify the living quarters as needed.

Computer-generated illustration of a solar-powered house.

The Nest Home will be constructed of recycled materials, including shipping containers that form a triangular space like a bird’s nest and an exterior clad with used shipping pallets. (Courtesy of the Solar Decathlon 2015 Missouri University of Science and Technology team)

The team’s dedicated approach attracted Puleo when she was a freshman in 2012. Over time, her bonds to the undergraduate decathletes have grown along with her duties.

“It’s great to see others finding the passion for this type of project,” she says. Originally working as director of finance, she took over as project manager in August 2014.

Photo of three people taking measurements with surveying equipment on a tripod.

At the Orange County Great Park, Missouri University of Science and Technology team members survey the lot where they will build the Nest Home for Solar Decathlon 2015. (Credit: Amy Vaughn/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

“Every day, I’m pushing my boundaries,” says the environmental engineering student. “But this is a tremendous opportunity, something regular students don’t experience—and something I’ll always value because it helps you figure out what you want to do in life.”

Puleo says the Nest Home experience will launch fledgling careers in fields that can impact the future and promote sustainability. She’s proud to be part of a long-standing tradition—and a new beginning. The Nest Home crew joins the rest, she says, in the Solar Decathlon experience, which “empowers us to find ways to keep the world going.”

Ernie Tucker is a member of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon communications team.

Reach an Inspired Audience—Exhibit at the Innovation Pavilion at Solar Decathlon 2015

February 19, 2015

By Carol Laurie

Calling all clean energy companies! You are invited to participate in the Innovation Pavilion at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015. A consumer exhibit for clean energy products and services, the 50-booth Innovation Pavilion will be located next to the Solar Decathlon village, where visitors will pass on their way to and from the student-designed competition houses.

Photo of people walking through a large exhibit hall.

The Innovation Pavilion will be adjacent to Solar Decathlon 2015 at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California. (Credit: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

“The Innovation Pavilion offers clean energy companies the opportunity to demonstrate their products and technologies to the thousands of people who will attend the Solar Decathlon,” says Tom Burke, owner and president of Flying Bull Inc., producer of the pavilion. “The Innovation Pavilion will provide a climate-controlled environment for guests to explore and learn what is commercially available today.”

The Innovation Pavilion will educate visitors about the broad spectrum of renewable energy and energy efficiency in home design, transportation, consumer products, food production, and education.

Photo of an electric vehicle plugged into a charging station in front of a large exhibition structure.

The Innovation Pavilion at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 offers exhibitors the opportunity to demonstrate clean energy products and technologies to consumers, homebuilders, municipalities, government agencies, businesses, and more. (Courtesy of Flying Bull Inc.)

The Innovation Pavilion will be open during Solar Decathlon public exhibit days at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, Oct. 8–11 and Oct. 15–18, 2015.

For more information on purchasing exhibit space for your organization, visit http://innovationpavilion.info/.

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

 

 

Schneider Electric Signs as Four-Time Solar Decathlon Sustaining Sponsor

February 17, 2015

By Carol Laurie

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is pleased to announce that Schneider Electric has signed on as a Solar Decathlon 2015 sustaining sponsor. A sustaining sponsor since 2009, Schneider Electric will provide the engineering design and supplemental equipment for our microgrid—a temporary, two-way power flow electrical system to interconnect the Solar Decathlon village and collegiate team competition houses. The company is also supplying the engineering design, hardware, software, and operation of the electrical microgrid monitoring system, which provides data for contest scoring.

Photo of a man looking at electrical equipment.

A Solar Decathlon 2013 collegiate team member surveys microgrid equipment used to power his team’s competition house. As part of its sponsorship, Schneider Electric has provided the engineering design and equipment for the Solar Decathlon village microgrid since 2009. (Credit: Amy Vaughn/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

“Schneider Electric is thrilled to once again partner with the Solar Decathlon and play a key role in helping educate the next generation of energy leaders,” says Jennifer Curtis, director, university partnerships, Schneider Electric. “Our sponsorship helps support the advancement of renewable technologies, raise public awareness of clean energy options, and brand Schneider Electric as the industry leader in energy management. We have also found that our Solar Decathlon sponsorship gives us access to the best and brightest students, who represent a talented recruitment pool for internships and full-time positions with our company.”

Schneider Electric will also provide professional staff to serve as volunteers during the Solar Decathlon 2015 public exhibit, to be held Oct. 8 through 18 at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California.

“We are so excited to welcome Schneider Electric back in 2015 as a sustaining-level sponsor,” says Richard King, director of the Solar Decathlon. “I’m grateful for their generosity, expertise, and passion for this competition and our educational mission. We literally couldn’t have a grid-connected Solar Decathlon village without them.”

Schneider Electric demonstrates worldwide dedication to the Solar Decathlon. In addition to its support of four U.S. competitions, the company has sponsored Solar Decathlon Europe (in 2010, 2012, and 2014) and Solar Decathlon China (in 2013).

With a focus on making energy safe, reliable, efficient, productive, and green, Schneider Electric ranks ninth in the 2015 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World Index.

If your company is interested in joining Schneider Electric in becoming a Solar Decathlon sponsor at any level, please contact Richard King or visit our sponsor page.

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