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

Solar Decathlon Blog - Solar Decathlon 2015

Below you will find Solar Decathlon news from the Solar Decathlon 2015 archive, sorted by date.

Yale University Withdraws from Solar Decathlon 2015

Friday, August 21, 2015

By Carol Laurie

Today, Solar Decathlon organizers announced that Yale University has withdrawn from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015.

“Unfortunately, Yale has withdrawn from the competition,” said Richard King, Solar Decathlon director. “I am extremely sad to see them go, as they were a tight-knit group of competitors who worked very hard on their project over the past two years. This is a disappointment for everyone.”

Members of the Yale team indicated that fundraising over the summer did not meet expectations,  which impacted their construction schedule. As a result, they were not able to finish building their house in time. Just six weeks remain before teams begin assembling their competition houses at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California.

“Yale is grateful for having had the opportunity to explore sustainable design through such an interdisciplinary format as the Solar Decathlon,” said Edward Wang, a Yale University architecture student who—with other team leaders Kate McMillan, Pablo Ponce de Leon, Thaddeus Lee, and Robert Loweth—worked on the team’s house design, fundraising, and communications. “While  Y-House will not be in Irvine to greet visitors this fall, we recognize that the pursuit of more sustainable living extends beyond the competition and plan to continue with Y-House’s construction effort.”

Wang indicated that an alumni group seeking to establish an artist community in North Carolina might adopt Y-House as the community’s operations base. He said that this would enable Y-House to fulfill its mission of demonstrating sustainable, energy-efficient housing.

“Despite this outcome, working on the Solar Decathlon over last two years has been an incredible experience,” Wang said.

The updated Solar Decathlon 2015 team roster is:

  • California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  • 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
  • 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
  • West Virginia University and University of Roma Tor Vergata
  • Western New England University, Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá, and Universidad Tecnológica Centroamericana.

The teams will welcome visitors to their houses Oct. 8–11 and Oct. 15–18 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California. The overall competition winner will be announced Saturday, Oct. 17, at 10 a.m.

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

Team NY Alfred Creates a Model for Western New York State

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

By Ernie Tucker

Western New York may not be known as a hotbed of solar energy innovation yet, but the addition of the ultra-efficient Alf House is beginning to change that.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 project from Team NY Alfred in Alfred, New York—made up of the State University of New York at Alfred College of Technology and Alfred University—is being used to spread the word about renewable energy.

“We’ve been able to reach the area schools around us and give them an idea of what the future looks like and how they could be part of it,” says Jessica Scoones of Team NY Alfred.

Scoones, who just completed her freshman year studying renewable energy engineering, chose Alfred University because of its involvement in the Solar Decathlon.

The team’s outreach efforts have also gone beyond local schools. Decathletes have canvassed the area, which includes a low-income population, to see what technologies might be valuable to residents.

“We’ve managed to make the house not just a simple family home for four, but we’ve been able to talk to local farmers and get their take on what they could use to better their own homes,” says Scoones.

Photo of a group of people in front of a building under construction.

Members of Team NY Alfred gather in front of Alf House, under construction at the State University of New York Alfred Wellsville Campus, in April. (Credit: Rick W. McLay /Team NY Alfred)

Although she has been involved only since last September, others have been preparing for several years. The two schools were part of a collaboration with China’s Guilin University of Technology in the first Solar Decathlon China in 2013. The experience stoked the group for its participation in the 2015 U.S. competition.

And that’s where the Alf House comes in. The project’s name underscores the unity between the schools, which are literally across the street from each other in Alfred, a small town south of Rochester and southeast of Buffalo.

Scoones, who is minoring in communications, has been working on outreach for the team and is content to leave most of the building to trained groups from Alfred College, which has classes in construction.

“In a couple of weeks, I’ll be going down from my hometown of Utica, New York, to do some of the smaller things, like painting the inside, that don’t require me to hurt myself,” she says, laughing.

Despite the fact that she’s a college volleyball player, she says: “I’m a klutz. Somehow, the grace doesn’t transfer. We went for a picture, and I tripped and fell.”

Computer-generated illustration of a solar-powered house.

Team NY Alfred designed the Alf House for a family of four in southern New York State. (Courtesy of the Solar Decathlon 2015 Team NY Alfred)

As the module structure comes together, she’s been impressed by the innovations throughout the house. One group of engineers is working on a solar-powered washer-dryer system.

“I come from a family of six and know how much energy is used just washing clothes,” says Scoones.

She says the architects and engineers have found ways to take the interior space and turn it into something that seems so much bigger.

“The house feels huge, and it’s so efficient,” she says.

“Being able to reach into the rustic, hilly-ness of our Allegany County and turn [this ambiance] into something modern and forward-thinking is impressive,” she says.

“I’m really excited to see it onsite in California,” she says.

And just as the project will impact the area, it has also impacted her career goals of working in renewable energy for housing by giving her unique experience.

“I think I’ll be that much more marketable with this innovative project,” she says.

But perhaps the best thing will be the changes that the Alf House will inspire in others for years to come.

“Our house acts more as a role model than a standalone home,” she says, a notion that adds to the overall satisfaction of the team. And there’s been plenty.

As she says, “It’s a joy to be a part of this.”

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

Team Orange County Sprouts Casa del Sol on Its Home Turf

Monday, August 10, 2015

By Ernie Tucker

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015’s Team Orange County—comprising the University of California, Irvine; Chapman University; Irvine Valley College; and Saddleback College—was looking for a way to represent its home territory. After all, the competition is taking place in its backyard.

“We took a step back to learn from nature,” says Alex McDonald, Team Orange County project manager. “We happened upon the California poppy. It’s an orange flower but also the state flower.”

So the more than 100 students who make up the team came together behind the poppy concept.

McDonald says they designed the house, Casa del Sol, to mimic the golden poppy by opening to the sun during the day and closing at night. They also wanted to reflect the conditions of the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California, where the competition will be held in October. That meant focusing on shading for the summer and ways to open the house in the winter as well.

The group looked at prevailing Southern California winds, and as a result, their project embraces the cool ocean breezes.

Computer-generated illustration of a solar-powered house.

Casa del Sol is designed to mimic the California poppy by opening to the sun in the daytime and conserving water. (Courtesy of Solar Decathlon 2015Team Orange County)

“We stripped away a lot of infrastructure on the western side of the house and added windows to allow breezes in,” he says.

At the same time, the team is prepared for the hot Santa Ana winds that typically scour the area in October. On the eastern side—where the winds will come—the team built up the infrastructure by positioning a carport and the mechanical room to act as buffers for a detached studio and the rest of the living space. An architectural covering known as a Brise Soleil shields the structure from the wind and direct sunlight as well.

And just as a poppy is drought-resistant, Casa del Sol is configured to conserve water. It recycles greywater and benefits from a rainwater catchment.

The steel frame of the house was constructed by a firm near Los Angeles and will be shipped to the team’s construction site at Irvine Valley College, where students have been busy assembling components such as special pivoting doors and the carport.

“Strategically, it made sense, because Irvine Valley is closest to the Great Park. We could get a couple of Radio Flyer wagons and just drag it” to the competition, McDonald jokes.

Photo of a group of people.

Members of Team Orange County gather at the Orange County Great Park on Feb. 1. (Credit: Gee Suan Yeo/Team Orange County)

In McDonald’s opinion, the size and diversity of the team have been both a blessing and a hurdle. Coordinating and engaging all the groups is a challenge.

“But it’s very much Team Orange County. We split up the work into each school’s natural talents and leveraged those skills,” he says.

The engineering and project management comes out of University of California, Irvine. Chapman University heads up marketing and communications and is filming a documentary on the project. Saddleback College helped with initial architectural designs, and Irvine Valley College not only houses construction but has also offered safety training to the team.

As an added benefit, several community college students, inspired by the Solar Decathlon to pursue further education in sustainability and green building, have been accepted into University of California system institutions, including University of California, Irvine.

McDonald, who is pursuing his master’s degree in mechanical engineering at University of California, Irvine, says that the Solar Decathlon has impacted his direction. After graduating from Washington State University, he worked for several years before ultimately moving to the area in 2013 when he thought to check up on the Solar Decathlon.

“I found out that it had moved to the Great Park, so I thought: ‘What luck. I’ll go check it out.'”

He ended up volunteering during Solar Decathlon 2013 and was inspired to seek his graduate degree and get involved in Team Orange County that November.

He’s eager to see Casa del Sol in place.

“I guess this is my baby. It’s been a lot of work, certainly more than just a house,” McDonald says.

He and the others are hoping that, like the native poppy that reseeds in local fields, their concept will reseed throughout the state and spread Team Orange County’s biomimicry to sustainable housing across the United States.

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

Solar Decathlon Organizers Revise 2015 Competitors List

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

By Carol Laurie

Today, Solar Decathlon organizers announced that Florida/Singapore—a team comprising University of Florida, National University of Singapore, and Santa Fe College—has withdrawn from the Solar Decathlon 2015 competition.

“Florida/Singapore was an outstanding team, and we’re saddened to see them leave the competition,” said Richard King, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon director. “Even though they won’t be crossing the finish line in Irvine this fall, I know that the hard work they devoted to the Solar Decathlon will pay off for these talented students.”

With just weeks to go before the competition, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 teams are racing against the clock. While some teams are putting the finishing touches on their houses and competition plans, Florida/Singapore found out the hard way that the Solar Decathlon is not all about architecture and engineering. The team’s faculty advisors indicated that funding was the principal constraint to moving forward.

“This is very disappointing to our team of students and faculty, who have dedicated a great deal of time and energy to the project,” said Bradley Walters, the team’s faculty advisor and assistant professor at University of Florida College of Design Construction + Planning, School of Architecture. “We feel that the house has great merit and hope to construct it locally to benefit community partners, if possible. The students got a lot out of this effort, and we owe it to them to ensure their efforts have a place in the constructed environment.”

The modified Solar Decathlon 2015 team roster is:

  • 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
  • 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
  • West Virginia University and University of Roma Tor Vergata
  • Western New England University, Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá, and Universidad Tecnológica Centroamericana
  • Yale University.

“We wish other teams the best as they move forward in these final weeks,” Walters said.

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

Sponsors Rally Support for Solar Decathlon 2015

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

By Carol Laurie

The sponsors of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 have a lot in common. They’re not only impressive organizations but also care about education, workforce development, and clean energy solutions.  

“Wells Fargo is proud to be a sustaining sponsor for Solar Decathlon 2015, an event that aligns closely with our overall environmental commitment,” says Ashley Grosh, vice president, environmental affairs, Wells Fargo. “We congratulate everyone who is involved with this amazing student competition and appreciate their commitment to helping develop America’s clean technology infrastructure.” 

In addition to supporting the Solar Decathlon’s mission, our sponsors have fulfilled a variety of event needs.  

“Support from our generous sponsors is crucial to the success of the Solar Decathlon and the experience of thousands of student decathletes,” says Richard King, director of the Solar Decathlon. “While we recognize our sponsors in a variety of ways, we cannot thank them enough for their dedication to everything that this amazing competition stands for.”

Alt: Photo of people cheering as a ribbon falls away from a giant pair of scissors.

Sponsors help ensure the success of the Solar Decathlon for thousands of student decathletes and visitors. Here, Sustaining Sponsors cut the ribbon to open the Solar Decathlon 2013 village to visitors. (Credit: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

As of the end of July, the following sponsors have stepped up to support the Solar Decathlon.

Sustaining Sponsors

  • Edison International is the competition’s host utility sponsor, providing a temporary interconnection between Southern California Edison’s electric grid and the Solar Decathlon village microgrid, as well as much of the event’s infrastructure and furnishings.
  • Schneider Electric is providing the engineering design and supplemental equipment for the Solar Decathlon village microgrid. The company is also supplying the engineering design, hardware, software, and operation of the electrical microgrid monitoring system.
  • Wells Fargo is providing funds to meet several critical needs of the Solar Decathlon, including printing of the event Visitors Guide. The company is also partnering with Electrolux and Pella Corp. to sponsor Education Days and the Solar Decathlon 2015 Opening Reception.

Supporting Sponsors

  • Electrolux has partnered with Pella Corp. and Wells Fargo to sponsor Education Days programming, school bus grants, and the Solar Decathlon 2015 Opening Reception. This is the fourth U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon that Electrolux has sponsored.
  • Irvine Ranch Water District is a supporter of projects such as the Solar Decathlon that promote sustainability and water conservation practices. Irvine Ranch Water District will provide drinking water to Solar Decathlon village visitors as well as water service delivery and removal from the teams’ competition houses.
  • Pella Corp. is partnering with Electrolux and Wells Fargo to sponsor Education Days programming, school bus grants, and the Solar Decathlon 2015 Opening Reception. Pella Corp.’s sponsorship of the Solar Decathlon is just one part of the company’s commitment to education and environmental sustainability for its team members, its customers, and the communities in which Pella operates.
  • Tierra Verde Industries is providing waste management and recycling services for the Solar Decathlon. This is the second time that this green waste, wood waste, and construction and demolition materials recycler has supported the Solar Decathlon. 

Contributing Sponsors

  • ASHRAE is providing meals to Solar Decathlon 2015 student decathletes and jurors as well as other support for the event.
  • DMc Engineering provided layout and configuration of the Solar Decathlon village and other technical services to Solar Decathlon 2015.
  • The Home Depot is offering discounts on construction materials to student teams, donating tools and safety equipment to event organizers, and encouraging its customers to visit the Solar Decathlon by displaying outreach materials in its retail locations.
  • MicroPlanet is providing services to ensure that the Solar Decathlon 2015 village microgrid provides consistent, optimized voltage to each competing team and to ensure that the energy generated by each team’s PV installation is integrated smoothly back onto the microgrid.
  • National Association of Home Builders is providing building-industry outreach for Solar Decathlon 2015 as well as a meal for student decathletes.
  • The Orange County Register is publishing a special insert devoted to the Solar Decathlon as part of its role as the Solar Decathlon print media sponsor.
  • Orange County Transportation Authority is providing shuttle service from Irvine Station to the Solar Decathlon village, thanks to funding provided through a Clean Transportation grant from the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee.
  • OxBlue is providing a time-lapse camera system that will transmit images from the Solar Decathlon village to the Solar Decathlon website for fans everywhere.
  • Resource Furniture is providing food for the team Victory Celebration.

Resource and Association Sponsors

  • American Institute of Architects Orange County
  • American Institute of Architects
  • ARCOM
  • American Society of Landscape Architects, Southern California Chapter
  • Autodesk
  • Construction Specifications Institute
  • Doctor’s Ambulance Service
  • International Code Council
  • National Fire Protection Association
  • National Institute of Building Sciences
  • RSMeans
  • U.S. Green Building Council Orange County, Los Angeles, and San Diego Chapters

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