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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.

Department of Energy Seeks Public Sector Input for Future Solar Decathlon Planning

October 17, 2014

By Solar Decathlon

The Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a request for information (RFI) seeking input to help inform the design, planning, and implementation of the next generation of the Solar Decathlon—in 2017 and beyond.

The purpose of this RFI is to solicit feedback from past and present participants in the Solar Decathlon, broader academic circles, industry, sponsors, and other stakeholders on issues related to future Solar Decathlon competitions. The objective is to improve the outcomes aligned with the Solar Decathlon in the long term. DOE is specifically interested in feedback about additional U.S. benefits that should be the focus of future solar-powered home programs funded by DOE, the format of a competition to achieve those benefits, and whether other formats or options can deliver higher value to the U.S. In the format discussion, if the current format is proposed to continue, information is requested on how DOE should identify future locations for the Solar Decathlon.

DOE seeks a variety of different types of information to help inform its decision regarding how future Solar Decathlon competitions will be organized. To this end, DOE seeks detailed information regarding the following aspects related to the Solar Decathlon competitions:

  • Question 1
    How could the goals of the Solar Decathlon evolve to create a larger impact on the market needs of the following industry sectors?
    1. Buildings
    2. Solar
    3. Utility
    4. Transportation
    5. Education
  • Question 2
    What additional outcomes of the Solar Decathlon could increase the scale of that impact, and improve its cost effectiveness for the U.S.?
  • Question 3
    What is the appropriate role for DOE with respect to delivering on this potential impact?
  • Question 4
    What changes could be made to the Solar Decathlon rules, format, location, and logistics to achieve those outcomes?
  • Question 5
    How could the public and private roles and funding sources be developed to achieve those outcomes?
  • Question 6
    What should the Solar Decathlon look like in 10 years?

Instructions for how to respond to the RFI can be found in the eXchange system at https://eere-exchange.energy.gov/Default.aspx#FoaIddb4c51f6-e566-4791-9b26-c7dd4873870a. Responses are due Nov. 24, 2014.

Solar Decathlon Organizers Adjust 2015 Competition Lineup

September 30, 2014

By Amy Vaughn

U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Director Richard King today announced that Stanford University has withdrawn from the Solar Decathlon 2015 competition.

In Stanford University’s notification letter, the school administration said: “The team and the university remain enthusiastically committed to the program’s goals. Faculty and students will continue to take part in a wide array of research, teaching, and outreach activities to advance alternative energy technologies and systems.”

Stanford University previously competed in Solar Decathlon 2013, where it placed fifth overall with its Start.Home entry.

“Stanford was a strong competitor in our last competition,” said King. “While we’re disappointed we won’t see its students compete in 2015, we know the school and students will continue our tradition of educating others about the opportunities presented by renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

The updated Solar Decathlon 2015 team lineup includes:

  • California Polytechnic State University
  • California State University, Sacramento
  • Clemson University
  • Crowder College and Drury University
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology
  • New York City College of Technology
  • State University of New York at Alfred College of Technology and Alfred University
  • Stevens Institute of Technology
  • University of Florida, National University of Singapore, and Santa Fe College
  • The University of Texas at Austin and Technische Universitaet Muenchen
  • University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of California, Irvine; Saddleback College; Chapman University; and Irvine Valley College
  • Vanderbilt University and Middle Tennessee State University
  • West Virginia University and University of Roma Tor Vergata
  • Western New England University, Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá, and Universidad Tecnológica Centroamericana
  • Yale University.

Amy Vaughn is a member of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon communications team.

Alumnus Builds Houses, Career on Solar Decathlon Experience

September 22, 2014

By Irene Ying

Ryan Abendroth is the founder, principle, and practitioner of Passive Energy Designs in St. Louis, Missouri—a company that consults on high-performing, low-energy buildings. To date, he has consulted on more than 100 buildings to help others design and achieve ultra-efficient houses that are aesthetically pleasing and functionally livable. He credits this career to his participation in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2009, an event that he calls “transformative” to his life.

“The Solar Decathlon put me in touch with a company at the forefront of innovation within the building industry,” Abendroth says. “The knowledge I gained through the Solar Decathlon led directly to employment and set the foundation for the work I have done up to this point.”

Photo of a young man.

Solar Decathlon 2009 alumnus Ryan Abendroth owns a Passive House consultancy and credits the Solar Decathlon with laying the foundation for his career. (Photo courtesy Ryan Abendroth)

Abendroth became involved with the Solar Decathlon while studying architecture at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where his work won scholarships and prize nominations. On the Solar Decathlon team, he performed energy modeling on Gable Home, which, like many of his projects post-Solar Decathlon, combined energy efficiency practices, traditional building techniques, and attractive design. He also contributed to the decision by the Illinois team to pursue Passivehaus Certification for Gable Home. Passive House is an energy performance standard that requires excellent insulation, solar gain and internal heating, airtightness, and high indoor air quality. The Illinois team won second place overall in the 2009 competition.

It was during his time working on Passivhaus Certification that Abendroth became interested in the passive house concept. This led him to interning at Passive House Institute US, a nonprofit organization that trains, certifies, and otherwise supports the advancement of the Passive House standard in North America. At the Passive House Institute US, Abendroth performed contract work and trained other professionals in Passive House standards. He eventually became the certification manager, which allowed him to interact with design teams across the United States. Out of this work came his current company, Passive Energy Designs, founded in 2010.

“My Solar Decathlon experience did not just benefit my work, but it laid the foundation for all my work to come,” Abendroth emphasizes. “It introduced me to the passive house concept, which, five years later, is still a main tenant of my business and life.”

Abendroth uses his expertise to consult on energy-efficient buildings. His work often includes performing detailed energy modeling calculations, engineering the building’s thermal envelope, and providing input into the building’s design. He also teaches and educates others about the passive house concept and standards. In addition to this work, he’s been part of two completed projects at the University of Kansas: the Prescott Passive House and the Center for Design Research.

Busy as he is, Abendroth still found time to go back to where it all started. In 2014, he joined the U.S.-German team of Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, and University of Applied Sciences – Erfurt at Solar Decathlon Europe in Versailles. This time he participated as an instructor and consultant and calls it an “amazing experience” that he was grateful to be a part of.

“The camaraderie among the students both times I competed was excellent,” he says. “We built lasting friendships and lasting professional networks.”

Summarizing what the Solar Decathlon means to him, Abendroth adds, “It’s not just about a competition and the houses that are built, but rather an investment into all of the decathletes, their futures, and the future of the built environment.”

Irene Ying is a member of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon communications team.

 

Solar Decathlon 2015 Team Websites Provide New Insight

September 18, 2014

By Carol Laurie

If you’re ready for another glimpse into what the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 teams are up to, check out our updated 2015 team pages. They now include links to the teams’ own websites!

As part of the Communications Contest, teams create websites to share information about their projects and their progress. Over the next year, the teams will continue to expand their websites and social media presence. At the start of the competition in October 2015, Communications Contest jurors will evaluate the websites for effectiveness, ease of use, compliance with U.S. government standards, and other attributes.

Photo of a woman standing in front of signage and talking to a group of people who are holding clipboards.

Gwen Cook of Middlebury College gives Communications Contest jurors a house tour during Solar Decathlon 2013. The Communications Contest challenges teams to educate others about their houses, their experiences, and their projects. (Credit: Eric Grigorian/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

In addition to team electronic communications, the Communications Contest jurors review public exhibit materials and presentation, an audiovisual presentation, and overall communications strategy. They award points for quality, creativity, delivery, and innovation.

Stay tuned for more from the Solar Decathlon teams. In January 2015, we’ll post computer-animated walkthroughs and renderings of the team houses. In the meantime, learn all about the current plans and design concepts on the team websites.

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

 

 

DesertSol Makes Senator Reid Feel at Home

September 4, 2014

By Carol Laurie

On Aug. 28, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid visited DesertSol—the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) house that won second place overall in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013. Now located permanently at the Springs Preserve in central Las Vegas, Nevada, DesertSol has been one of the Preserve’s most popular attractions since it opened to the public in March 2014.

Senator Reid joined former UNLV decathletes for a tour of the house led by Alexia Chen. After the tour, the senator talked on the front patio with Solar Decathlon alumni about sustainability and what they have been doing since the competition.

Photo of a group of smiling people.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid joins former UNLV decathletes for a tour of DesertSol, the house that won second place overall in Solar Decathlon 2013. Included here are Solar Decathlon Director Richard King (second from left), Alexia Chen (fourth from left), and Senator Reid (center). (Credit: FFW Public Relations and Government Affairs)

“Everyone had a good time at this event—especially the decathletes, who were still marveling at the house they built and how it continues to teach the public. Several of the former UNLV students raved to me about what a beneficial learning experience the Solar Decathlon was for them,” said Richard King, Solar Decathlon director. “The senator’s visit was a proud moment for the students, the university, and the Springs Preserve.”

DesertSol is now a permanent exhibit in the Springs Preserve Botanical Gardens, where visitors can tour the house and learn more about its features. The University of Nevada Las Vegas designed the house to reflect the spirit of the Mojave Desert. With reverence to the sun as both a source of harsh conditions and a solution for sustainable living, DesertSol harnesses abundant sunlight for solar electricity while capturing rain to provide evaporative cooling and irrigation.

Photo of a modern house with people and cactus in front.

DesertSol is one of the most popular attractions at the Springs Preserve, a cultural site in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo courtesy Springs Preserve)

The Springs Preserve, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, is a 180-acre cultural institution designed to commemorate Las Vegas’ dynamic history and provide a vision for a sustainable future. The Springs Preserve features museums, galleries, outdoor events, colorful botanical gardens that include DesertSol, and an interpretive trail system through a scenic wetland habitat. Pardee Homes, one of the sponsors of DesertSol, helped the team prepare the site and rebuild the house at its permanent Springs Preserve location.

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