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

Posts Tagged ‘Solar Decathlon’

Sneak Peek: Solar Decathlon 2015 House Concepts!

Monday, June 30, 2014

By Carol Laurie

What do the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 teams have up their sleeves? Our new 2015 team pages will give you an idea of what’s in store. The teams have submitted their first house designs to competition organizers, and we’re giving you a glimpse of what’s planned.

Although all the projects feature solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive, they represent a variety of target markets, technological innovations, and design approaches. These include everything from urban infill housing for low-income residents and zero-net-energy housing for migrant farm workers to a modern version of the “dogtrot” house for a family of gardeners—though these plans might change substantially before construction begins at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California, next fall.

Photo of a modern living room with a wall of windows, through which an outdoor table and wheelchair are visible.

Solar Decathlon 2013 Team Capitol D.C.’s HARVEST HOME, pictured here, is a fully accessible house designed to facilitate healing for a war veteran. Solar Decathlon 2015 teams have presented their first plans for the competition. (Credit: Jason Flakes/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Stay tuned for updated team project information and designs in the months ahead. In August, we’ll share the teams’ own websites with expanded information about their plans, and next January, we’ll post computer-animated walkthroughs and renderings of the team houses.

In the meantime, see where it all begins with the Solar Decathlon 2015 initial design concepts.

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


Solar Decathlon Europe 2014: Perspective of a Manufacturer, Observer, and Building Technology Enthusiast

Thursday, June 26, 2014

By Meredith Tunick

When I arrived onsite yesterday, Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 student teams were in the middle of the final phase of heavy construction of their self-designed and self-built project houses. The scene was filled with intense energy as students—fully equipped with hard hats, steel-toed boots, and safety gear—moved around their construction sites in a sort of synchronized dance of home production. The air smelled of dirt, lumber, and teamwork.

My experience with the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon dates back to 2005, when I toured the houses on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. I attended the competition not as an employee of a manufacturing company or a Solar Decathlon sponsor but as a private individual interested in emerging energy and building technology. My first encounter with the Solar Decathlon was significant, and I’ve been passionate about it ever since.

Photo of a man and woman wearing hard hats and safety vests inside a house under construction.

Rory Stevens of Team Inside Out (Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, and the University of Applied Sciences in Erfurt, Germany) talks with Annette Wagner, Bosch, Government Affairs, Brussels, and explains how the team used innovative fabrics and techniques to design the structure of its house. Credit: Meredith Tunick

Fast forward to Solar Decathlon Europe 2014, currently underway in Versailles, France. After signing in at the main registration desk on the event grounds, just off the main entrance to the Palace of Versailles, I received a visitor pass, hard hat, safety vest, and a pair of work boots. My colleague Annette Wagner, who had taken the train down from Brussels to join me for the site tour, and I met up with Louise Holloway, communications and brand identity specialist for Solar Decathlon Europe 2014. Louise provided us with a tour of the full site and shared her enthusiasm with us about what the students had accomplished. While briefing us on all the team project concepts, she thoughtfully answered our questions, tended to critical logistics issues, and while doing so, waved and greeted students, volunteers, and other onsite personnel with a smile and an encouraging attitude. Like so many other Solar Decathlon staff members I have come across, Louise has a sharp-edged eye for detail, an immense talent for multi-tasking, and the supreme capacity of charisma.

During our tour, Louise introduced us to the two Solar Decathlon Europe teams that incorporate U.S. universities: Team Inside Out—a collaborative project that includes Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the University of Applied Sciences in Erfurt, Germany—and Team Réciprocité, an alliance of Appalachian State University and Université d’Angers, France. We spent time with Rory Stevens of Team Inside Out as he explained his team’s solar-powered passive house that uses curving surfaces and high-performance textiles. Rory took us inside Techstyle Haus to get a better look at the interior structural steel ribs that hold the house together.

One more day remains until the competition’s opening ceremony, which will take place on Friday, June 27. I can’t wait to see what the final products look like! What an amazing endeavor and a fantastic opportunity for these student teams to showcase their innovative designs, expertise, and outside-the-box thinking. More to come from the event grounds of Solar Decathlon Europe 2014, here in Versailles, France. Au revoir!

Meredith Tunick is manager, Federal Government Affairs, Bosch North America.

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.

Salut Versailles! Solar Decathlon Europe Opens to Visitors

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

By Carol Laurie

On June 28, 20 competition houses from 17 countries and three continents open to visitors in La Cité du Soleil—Solar Decathlon Europe’s solar city in Versailles, France.

Two of the 20 teams represent U.S.-European partnerships:

  • Team Inside Out (Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, and Germany’s University of Applied Sciences–Erfurt)
  • Team Réciprocité (Appalachian State University and France’s Université d’Angers).
Photo of a partially constructed house with two stories and French and U.S. flags waving on the roof.

Maison Réciprocité, the competition house of the Appalachian State University and Université d’Angers team, is shown under construction at Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 in Versailles, France. (Credit: Maureen Clapper)

Keep up with their live monitoring and scoring results on the competition’s home page. You can also keep pace with all the fun on the Solar Decathlon Europe events calendar. In addition, you can find information about the team projects in the projects profile.

Photo of students standing, cheering, and clapping.

Members of Team Réciprocité (Appalachian State University and Université d’Angers) show their team spirit at the Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 welcome ceremony on June 15. (Credit: Solar Decathlon Europe)

La Cité du Soleil is open to the public from June 28 to July 14. The solar houses are open for visits:

  • Weekdays – 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Weekends – 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Solar Decathlon Europe, a complementary competition to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, was hosted by Spain for its first two competitions in 2010 and 2012.

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


Solar Decathlon Takes First Place in Government Communicators Competition

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

By Carol Laurie

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 won first place in the special events category in the National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC) Blue Pencil and Gold Screen Awards Competition. The award was announced last week during a reception and banquet at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Wrote competition judge Cheryl V. Chambers of the U.S. Census Bureau: “This entry was flawless—a well-executed and interesting event, and a top-notch overall entry. Very comprehensive and impressive. Congratulations on the coverage, participation, and great metrics.”

Solar Decathlon 2013 gained the attention of millions through worldwide media coverage and attracted 64,000 visitors, who toured the solar-powered houses and learned about their energy-saving features.

Aerial photo of crowds of people visiting solar-powered houses that line both sides of a village street on a sunny day.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 attracted 64,000 visitors and gained the attention of millions through worldwide media coverage. The 2015 event will be held at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California, Oct. 8–18. (Credit: Richard King/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

The NAGC Blue Pencil and Gold Screen Awards Competition, held in conjunction with the NAGC 2014 Communications School, salutes superior communications efforts of government agencies.

This joins a growing list of awards the Solar Decathlon has received over the past several years. These include:

  • 2013 OC Metro magazine’s Green Team Award
  • Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, 2012 Bright Ideas in Government Award
  • Public Relations Society of America, 2012 Silver Anvil Award, Government Events, More Than Seven Days category
  • PR Daily’s Digital & Social Media 2012 Award for Best Government Social Media program
  • National Building Museum 2010 Honor Award.

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