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Solar Decathlon Blog - Contests

Below you will find Solar Decathlon news from the Contests archive, sorted by date.

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

Thursday, 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.

Solar Decathlon Village Powered by Microgrid and Sponsor Support

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

By Carol Laurie

Since the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2009, a temporary, ground-laid electrical grid (or “microgrid”) has connected Solar Decathlon houses with one another and the local utility. The village microgrid allows excess power generated by the houses’ solar electric systems to be sent back to the larger city utility grid and its customers. The microgrid also enables the competition houses to draw energy from the utility when consumption exceeds production.

In Solar Decathlon 2002, 2005, and 2007, Solar Decathlon houses were grid-independent and ran off batteries that stored the electricity generated by their solar photovoltaic systems. In 2009, competition organizers decided to connect the houses to the electrical grid to better reflect the typical residential configuration found today. By connecting each house to the local electric utility grid, the microgrid enables houses in the Solar Decathlon village to function the same way solar households throughout the United States operate.

 

Photo of a group of people talking next to an electrical box.

Byron Stafford (second from left), who served as the Solar Decathlon site operations manager from 2002 until 2013, consults with a team member from the City College of New York (right) about interconnecting the team’s house with the 2011 village microgrid. Stafford and his team of engineers transitioned the solar village from battery storage to grid power by installing the first Solar Decathlon village microgrid in 2009. (Credit: Carol Anna/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Energy Balance Contest

The microgrid also changed the Energy Balance Contest, for which teams earn points based on their energy production and energy consumption. Before the microgrid, organizers measured the flow of energy in and out of battery storage during the competition. Now, the energy each house produces and consumes over the course of the competition is measured with a bidirectional utility meter.

When the sun shines, the solar system produces electricity that is used to power appliances, lights, mechanical systems, and even an electric car. If the system produces more electricity than the house needs, excess electricity flows from the house back into the microgrid and the larger utility grid. At night, or when the demand for energy exceeds the amount of energy being produced, the house consumes electricity from the grid.

In this way, the microgrid provides two-way power flow and enables the Solar Decathlon village to operate continuously regardless of available sunlight or household electricity requirements.

Powered by Sponsors

The Solar Decathlon depends on sponsors to provide the supplemental expertise and equipment needed to design, build, and operate the village microgrid.

For the 2009, 2011, and 2013 competitions, Solar Decathlon sponsor Schneider Electric provided microgrid design and engineering services as well as electrical distribution equipment required to safely and reliably connect the Solar Decathlon village to the local utility. In 2011 and 2013, Schneider Electric also provided a proprietary metering and data system that enabled online and onsite demonstrations of real-time electricity generation and consumption in the village.

The microgrid also depends on local utilities to enable interconnection of the main utility grid with the Solar Decathlon microgrid. Edison International (the parent company of Southern California Edison) provided this crucial sponsorship in 2013, and Pepco stepped up to the plate for Washington, D.C., events in 2009 and 2011.

Other microgrid sponsors include MicroPlanet, which sponsored voltage regulation equipment in 2013, and M.C. Dean, which installed the microgrid in 2011.

All of these sponsors worked together to provide a valuable addition to the competition.

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

Vienna University of Technology Wins Solar Decathlon 2013!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

By Solar Decathlon

Team Austria from the Vienna University of Technology has won the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013.

Photo of the exterior of LISI.

Team Austria’s LISI house is the winner of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013. (Credit: Jason Flakes/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

The first-time U.S. competitor consistently wowed juries with its LISI house, after winning first place in the Communications Contest, second place in Market Appeal, and tying for third place in Engineering.  In measured contests, Team Austria received first place in both the Hot Water and Energy Balance contests.

University of Las Vegas Nevada took second place in the overall competition, and Czech Technical University received third place.

The winner of the Solar Decathlon is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

Results for the final juried contest, Engineering, were announced today prior to the overall competition winners. Team Ontario (Queen’s University, Carleton University, and Algonquin College) placed first.

Photo of the Team Ontario house.

The Engineering Contest first-place winner is Team Ontario (Queen’s University, Carleton University, and Algonquin College). (Credit: Jason Flakes/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

“Team Ontario revealed a complete understanding of building science, a very good building envelope for the target climate, and excellent integration of passive and active strategies,” said Engineering Contest juror Kent W. Peterson of P2S Engineering. “We believe this team best demonstrated design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.”

Second place in Engineering went to Czech Technical University from the Czech Republic. Three teams shared third place: Team Austria from Vienna University of Technology, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and University of Nevada Las Vegas

The Engineering Contest jurors evaluate each house’s energy-efficiency savings, creative design innovations, and the functionality and reliability of each system.

See the Solar Decathlon website for final scoring results.

European Teams Top Architecture and Communications Contests

Friday, October 11, 2013

By Solar Decathlon

Czech Technical University took first place in the highly competitive Architecture Contest and Vienna University of Technology received top honors in the Communications Contest this morning at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013.

A jury of professional architects determined the Architecture Contest winners by assessing each house’s architectural elements, environmental compatibility and occupant comfort, design inspiration, and construction specifications.

Photo of the interior of AIR House.

The interior of Czech Technical University’s AIR House, which won first place in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 Architecture contest, incorporates warm and natural wood finishes to create a comfortable place to dwell and reenergize. (Credit: Jason Flakes/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

“The first-place winner, AIR House from Czech Technical University, provides a multitude of wonderful architectural experiences despite its simple and uncomplicated design,” said Architecture Contest juror Richard N. Swett of Climate PROSPERITY Enterprise Solutions LLC. “Using light and materials, this house creates a warm and inviting cocoon where indoor and outdoor living are intertwined with the elements of sun and nature.”

Stevens Institute of Technology won second place in the Architecture Contest for its house, Ecohabit. Third place went to the University of Southern California for fluxHome.

For the Communications Contest, a jury of communications professionals evaluated each team’s website, public exhibit materials, public tours, and audiovisual presentation for clear and consistent messages, representative images, and creative audience engagement.

Photo of Sandra Violand distributing handouts to visitors in line at the LISI house.

Sandra Violand, architecture student at Vienna University of Technology, which won first place in the Communications Contest, offers the team’s handout to visitors at the entrance of the LISI house. Voiland also wears the handout, which not only offers information about the team’s Solar Decathlon entry but can also be folded into a wearable crown. (Credit: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

“As a second-time juror, I was blown away by the amount of work and creativity the 2013 entries showed in their communications efforts,” said Communications Contest juror Mark Walhimer of Museum Planning LLC.  “The top teams represented a very high level of sophistication in their brand building.”

Second place in the Communications Contest went to University of Nevada Las Vegas, and Middlebury College took third place.

Walhimer said that the most successful teams in the Communications Contest were able to portray a lifestyle brand rather than merely conveying the technical features of their houses.

Engineering Contest results and the overall winner of Solar Decathlon 2013 will be announced tomorrow, Saturday, Oct. 12.

Affordability and Market Appeal Contest Winners Announced!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Solar Decathlon

At an awards ceremony this morning, winners of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 Affordability and Market Appeal contests took center stage by demonstrating that innovative, energy-efficient houses can be cost-effective and appealing to a variety of target markets.

Photo of Richard Anderson and Robert Best at a desk looking at paperwork.

The Affordability Contest juror, Richard Anderson, left, speaks with Robert Best from Stanford University during the Affordability Contest walkthrough. (Credit: Eric Grigorian/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Three teams tied for first place in the Affordability Contest by earning the full 100 points for achieving a target construction cost of $250,000 or less.  The winners are: Norwich University ($168,385), Stanford University ($234,092), and Kentucky/Indiana from University of Louisville, Ball State University, and University of Kentucky ($248,423).

Team Ontario from Queen’s University, Carleton University, and Algonquin College took second place ($257,584), and Middlebury College won third ($263,083).

The winners of the Solar Decathlon 2013 Affordability Contest have demonstrated that innovation in sustainable building can be achieved and implemented in real-world application,” said professional estimator Rich Anderson of Faithful + Gould. “These teams have delivered affordable, livable homes that are also attractive to everyday consumers.”

In the Market Appeal Contest, the University of Nevada Las Vegas wowed the jury and took home first place for its house, DesertSol, which is designed as a luxurious desert vacation retreat for a middle-aged, middle-to-upper-income, active couple.

Photo of the front façade of the DesertSol.

The University of Nevada Las Vegas won first place in the Solar Decathlon 2013 Market Appeal Contest. (Credit: Jason Flakes/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

“The Market Appeal jurors loved the design of this house. The look, the feel, the energy blew us away,” said Susan Aiello, founder and president of Interior Design Solutions and U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 Market Appeal juror. “Of all the houses we saw, we thought that DesertSol best met the needs and desires of its target market. I’d buy it!”

Team Austria from Vienna University of Technology won second place in Market Appeal. Tying for third place were Czech Technical University from the Czech Republic and Stanford University.

The Market Appeal Contest evaluates the livability, marketability, and constructability of each house and its appeal within the housing market of the target client chosen by each team. The Market Appeal Jury, composed of professionals from the sustainable housing homebuilding industry, evaluated the responsiveness of the house designs to the characteristics and requirements of these target clients.

Stay tuned for the announcement of tomorrow’s winners in the Communications and Architecture contests.