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Denver, Colorado
October 5-15, 2017

Solar Decathlon 2019 Planning Webinar Text

Here is the text-alternate version of the Solar Decathlon 2019 Planning Webinar held on March 14, 2017.

Linda Silverman:
Presentation cover slide:

In today's webinar I'm going to provide some background and useful information on kind of the history of the Solar Decathlon and where we are today, what's up with the Solar Decathlon 2017, which will take place this October. I am seeking your input as we prepare for the call for teams, so that we are designing a competition that is most useful to universities that want to participate. And I'm going to provide some information that you should consider as you prepare to apply. Alright.

First slide:
OK. DOE's goals for the Solar Decathlon are really centered around workforce development, providing a very unique experience for the Decathletes and visibility for universities, but it's also the largest public event that DOE has. And so we are showcasing our energy technologies to inspire those who visit about smart energy choices, hopefully encourage them to pursue energy careers, and to provide consumer training but also professional development training for those in the trades related to the building sector, solar sector, etc. And we are expanding the innovation aspect of design in this competition. And so that's a very important aspect, too.

Next slide:
So here's just some more information. For those who don't know, -- I know a lot of people do know about the Solar Decathlon, but for those who don't know, it's DOE's university competition that challenges teams to design, build, and operate solar-power houses in a head-to-head competition across 10 contests, hence the name Decathlon. And the winner best blends design excellence and smart energy production with innovation, market appeal, and energy and water efficiency. And again, it is a free public event. We tend to get anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 people at these events, so they're big. The next one will be in Denver, Colorado, and we encourage a lot of people to come, including any team that is applying to be in it. It draws tremendous media coverage and has expanded internationally to five continents, so we're pretty excited about that, too.

Next slide:
OK, so the next few slides are really just going through photos to give you a sense of what this competition is like. The 2002, 2005, '07, and '09 competitions were actually on the Mall in Washington, and this is what it looked like. As you can see, the Capitol behind it. Drew a lot of people. Luckily there was some good sun.

Next slide:
Here's another photo from the 2009 competition.

Next slide:
And here's one from the 2011, which actually moved to a different -- off the Mall, but close to the East Potomac Park.

Next slide:
In 2013 and 2015, the competition moved to Irvine, California. And this is what it looked like.

Next slide:
And this is renderings that we recently received from the teams that are participating in the 2017. So this is kind of what they look like, and if you want to see a video that shows them, that's also on the same landing page, SolarDecathlon.gov, that I told you about before.

Next slide:
This is a schematic of what the 2017 competition is going to look like. If you can see -- I'm not sure if this works, but -- right over here, on the left side of the picture, is the new transit line. This is the Pena, 61st and Pena Street stop. It's the first stop after the airport. This over here is a parking lot that has solar panels on it. This is a large Panasonic building that was just built. And then these are the renderings that you saw on the previous slide. This is them and how it's going to look, the competition.

Next slide:
OK, so some changes that we have made for 2017. And you should know that with each competition, there are slight changes or tweaks based on feedback from the teams, any other feedback we get, changing market conditions, and other factors. And then we kind of slightly tweak it all; I'll go through that in a second. The 2019 competition will also be in Denver, so this is new for the '17 and '19. And again, it's five minutes from the Denver International Airport. There's two new focuses for us, Innovation and Water. And I'll go through that in a second, too. For the first time, in 2017, it will be a prize structure, so the teams will actually win prizes, versus in the past, we've provided up-front seed funding for teams. And again, we're kind of expanding the whole event, so there's now going to be a Rocky Mountain Sustainability Expo. There's going to be a community festival that the City of Denver is involved in. And again, we're going to have professional development and consumer workshops, including professional development for teachers. And then as we've had in the past, we're going to have education days for middle school students. And once you apply you will become familiar with the Energetics team, who will serve as the program administrator for the event.

Next slide:
These are the 13 teams that are competing, on the left side. And the right side is just a great photo from the 2015 competition showing a lot of the Decathletes that were there.

Next slide:
OK, so as I said, every competition we change the contests and the rules slightly based on a number of conditions. So in '17, as you can see, Architecture and Engineering is staying the same. But we have combined Market Appeal and Affordability into Market Potential. Communications is the same. Comfort Zone is the same; it just has a new name. We've changed slightly some rules around that. But here we used to have separate competitions for Home Life and Commuting, and they've now been combined into one. And the Commuting is, this is where you have an electric vehicle that is attached to the house and powered by the house and then has to be driven for a certain amount of miles, and that's in this competition. Energy Balance is basically the same. And then we have freed up two new competitions, Innovation and Water.

Next slide:
So this is just a little bit about the public Sustainability Expo, just repeating the types of information that we'd like to convey, both by DOE and other government agencies but also by a lot of private sector companies that want to communicate about their products, and City of Denver is going to have some booths, too. It's going to be great. So that we're expanding the visit to not only include visiting the houses but also learning and interacting. There's going to be an education section of the expo, too, where kids can come and play with things.

Next slide:
Here's a little bit more about the STEM education. The Thursday and Friday of both weeks are education days, where middle school students come for -- it's basically a full-day field trip where they also get to interact with the students, which is really great, because they really look up to the Decathletes. There's going to be a dedicated educational section of the expo, as I just mentioned. And then we're also going to have professional development for teachers.

Next slide:
So it's really important for DOE to hear from the teams that are interested in applying. What changes they would like to make. The questions that we have in this request for information are based on some interactions we've had with teams or some feedback that we've had. It's out on the street; it's also in the invitation that you received, there's a link to this. So you can either get to it from this EERE Exchange area or from the website. It's in both places. We're asking for responses by April 3. You don't have to answer every question. It's really not in any way required; it's just something that will really help us make the competition for you be a better event. And we're really trying to increase the opportunities for teams to participate and to reduce the barriers to entry. So the feedback will help us shape the upcoming call for teams. So we would really -- I urge you to help us out.

Next slide:
OK, so these are the types of questions that we have put in the request for information. One is, if this is really going to be mostly for the current teams, but it also could be for teams that may have decided to apply or not apply for 2017 -- is the prize structure a good idea? The timing. We've heard that some teams do not like having the event in October and they would prefer to have it in the summer. So if that's the case, we would like to know that that is what teams want. And if it's in the summer, we would like to know at what part of the summer -- the beginning part of the summer, June, July, or August. The length of the competition. This is tied kind of to the size of houses. We're thinking about reducing the size of houses slightly to 500 square feet over 800 square feet, to make it easier for teams to transport the houses and also reduce the number of days that they would need to assemble on-site. And so in that way, maybe help reduce the costs and the burden on teams. We really want to have universities make a strong financial commitment so that it doesn't come time for the event and they say, oh, sorry, we don't have enough money to support our team. So there's some sponsorship issue questions, some rules and contest issues. One example is, should we still have an electric vehicle requirement? Should there be partnership with home builders? And then other feedback that teams may have.

Next slide:
So for those that are new to Solar Decathlon, we get feedback and questions all the time, and so these are some of the types of questions. And I thought I would try and put these down, knowing that these are the kind of questions that would come in anyway. Everyone should know that the teams are led by a university, but a community college can be part of a team. And you could look back on the Solar Decathlon website for information about that, if you want to know the types of teams that have been put together before. One unique feature of the Solar Decathlon is how interdisciplinary it is. Well, of course, we need architects and engineers on the teams; we also need communications students, because we have a communication contest. We need web designers. We need those with a business and economics and marketing background to help with the Market Potential contest and with some of the energy analysis that's required. So it really does require different skill sets. And it's a great way for teams to learn how to work in a collaborative team, which will be really useful as they enter the work world. We expect that it takes about two years needed to develop the proposal and then to execute. So that's why you'll see in the timing we're hoping to go out with our call for teams in the May or June timeframe. And even though teams will not learn until later, just the idea of thinking about their proposal will get them started on this process. We think teams who do best have strong university support. Moral support, financial support, faculty leadership. They need to get close to their health and safety folks, because they have to really help them and sign off on some paperwork. They need to be willing to work with alumni and do sponsorship outreach. The estimated cost to date for teams is anywhere from $300,000 to $1.5 million. One of the questions we have in the request for information is if we should limit it to a certain dollar amount, so that it's not too much of a burden. And there's always a tradeoff with that. If we reduce the cost, are the houses as attractive as they might be? Universities are not expected to come up with all of the money that is required. It really is a tradeoff with how much sponsorship they were willing to seek with either the alums or local businesses or national businesses.

Next slide:
Some more -- team size tends to range between 50 and 200 students per team. We think those who do best have a strong link to curricula. It's very important to think about where you want the house to go post-competition. We're just beefing up our website. There's a "Where is the House Now." You can see where the different houses go afterward. Sometimes they're sold. More often than not, they become some type of museum or display. Sometimes they house either students or a park ranger or others. So there's all different types of places these houses can go, and you'll find that there's a lot of appetite for them. Anybody who has never been to the Solar Decathlon and is interested in participating are strongly encouraged to visit the Solar Decathlon 2017 in Denver. There's nothing like witnessing this to really understand what's involved. I will also say that it's important to talk to teams that have been involved before if you're interested, just to kind of get some pointers on things that you may not have thought about. And I would very strongly recommend that you really look around the website. We have intentionally -- this is probably the most complicated website that DOE has, because we have intentionally kept as many documents as possible on the website to serve as information for future teams.

Next slide:
So this is the expected timing. Don't hold me to it, but this is kind of what we're trying to go for. So in the May / June timeframe, we're going to put out a call for teams, asking for letters of intent from the university some time in the August timeframe. Then the event is held in October. And again, it's October 5th to the 15th. We urge universities to visit. And then two to three weeks after the event is when we are asking for full applications. And so it's important to be thinking about what you're going to put in your application well before the time that you visit the Solar Decathlon. It allows you to refine the application after you've visited and learned things. And then we notify teams in the December / January timeframe, and then they are off and running. If you would like to see the last call for teams, you can see it here. It's on the screen. It probably will not vary strongly from that, except that the application I'm hoping will be a bit simpler.

Next slide:
OK, so we're very active on social media, and if you're not already following us on Facebook and Twitter, I urge you to do that. It's really great. We've very active and it's great to see what's going on. Our website as up here has got a wealth of information. And then you can see all of the other areas that we are going to be start being even more active.

Next slide:
So just a brief history of the event. We've had seven events. This will be the eighth one in the United States. There have been five international events to date. As you can see: Spain twice, France, China, and Colombia. There are four international events coming up, and we may add a fifth one. The Europeans may do another one. And we have involved about 35,000 collegiate Decathletes worldwide. We've had about 2 million house visits. It says here 60,000 visitors per event. When we were in Washington, we had even more. And we're hoping that's going to happen in Denver. And again, 2 billion plus media impressions. So there's just a lot going on. There's been a lot of startups. It's been a really, really great event for inspiring people to go into energy and sustainable housing and architecture. So we're excited to see what we're going to find in 2017 and in the other contests that are going to happen in the other countries.

Next few slides:
So just a few more pictures, and then we are done. So I will look for some questions. You can put some questions, if you'd like, in the box on your screen, I think it's on the right side. And that's it. And if you think of questions, you can send them to Solar.Decathlon@ee.doe.gov. That's also on the front. You can see it on the lower right. If you don't have questions right now but you think of some, you can send it there. We're also going to send these slides out to all of those who have participated, and we're recording this, if you'd like to go back and listen to it. So I'm going to -- we're looking for some questions. If there's no questions ...

So one question has come in. What is the typical ratio of graduate students to undergraduate students? That's a great question. I don't know exactly. I would say for the most part, it's mostly undergraduates, but the leaders tend to be some graduate students. But I can't tell you exactly. I don't think anybody could actually answer that. I would say there's probably two to three graduate students on many teams, and then a bunch of undergraduates. Do you have any insight into teams that were multi-university teams versus a single university? I don't. I think it helps to have -- sometimes it's universities that have a strong architecture school but may need some help with engineering, or they bring in a community college for whatever reason. I think that's a great question, but I would say I would talk to a multi-university team and find out how that went.

How can we sign up to be notified? The best thing to do, if you're on this call, we will send out the information about the call for teams. If you can also send a note to Solar.Decathlon@ee.doe.gov -- which again, we will put in the follow-up email -- if you would like to get put on the list. ... The web page on how to apply is missing the link that shows the FOA call. That's interesting. I was there the other day, and it was on. So I will have to check that. If it's not on, we'll have to do something about that. ... Is the team most often led by an architecture program or an engineering program? My sense is they're often led by an architecture program, but not in every case. I think it really depends on the faculty member who takes the lead. It can be either from architecture or engineering. Multi-university teams are often motivated to -- oh, this is, Sara Farrar from NREL is providing some answers. She's saying that multi-university teams are often motivated to achieve strong multidisciplinary collaboration. So that's an answer to a previous question.

OK, here comes a question about a past Decathlete alumni, and what ways can I sign up to volunteer at the event? You absolutely can. We're about to put out some information about volunteering. Feel free to email the Solar.Decathlon@ee.doe.gov if you can't yet volunteer through the Solar Decathlon website. But that's great if you want to be involved. We would love to have you. I think that's it for questions. If you have more questions, please send them in to us. And I again urge you to look around the website, connect with former teams and learn as much as you can. So we're going to have more webinars; this isn't the only one. But we wanted to get it going while we knew everybody is still in school; some people are on spring break, I know. And we're excited to -- oh, excuse me, there is -- oh, OK. The person who said that the Solar Decathlon call for teams is not there is right. It was there the other day, and I'm going to see if we can get it back in. OK. Thanks, again, everybody. Appreciate your -- oh, here, there is one. So I'm looking forward to hearing what you all have to say in the responses to the requests for information. And we will try and get the link to the last call for teams back on the website, so thanks, somebody, for noticing that. OK. Thanks, everybody. Bye-bye.