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Construction Intensifies at Solar Decathlon Europe

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The pace has really picked up today at Solar Decathlon Europe. Teams are working double-time because only 35 hours of construction time remain. The opening ceremony will begin Thursday morning at 11 a.m. to officially open the Villa Solar.

Some teams are behind and a bit concerned, but not Virginia Tech. It is the first team to have all its inspections—electrical, mechanical, safety, etc.—done. Go Hokies! The University of Florida is further behind because it started two days late, but the team has been working around the clock and seemed in reasonably good spirits this morning. Some of the Virginia Tech students, and one Finland team member, have been down to help out.

Team and country flags are flying everywhere. There are five teams from Spain; four from Germany; two from France, China, and the United States; and one each from England and Finland. That’s 17 in all, which results in a nice international display of teams and flags.

I finally got inside some of the houses this morning. The Team Finland house has magnificent woodworking. The walls, paneling, furniture, and floors are beautifully crafted by the students. They have designed the house to be zero net energy in Finland, so the house is well-insulated with four-pane windows and triple-pane doors. I also went inside the Cataluna house—the one that is raised up and rounded. All of its cabinetry, furniture, shelving, and furniture was machined back at school, and it all fits together perfectly. The team was installing its solar photovoltaic system, so I got a close-up of the flexible panels—the first of their kind. Each roughly 2 ft-by-2 ft panel is 17 watts and is easily installed into the roof with four self-tapping screws. The team does not know the total power of the array because one has never been built before.

The opposite of these wood-crafted houses is the Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera’s (Spain) house, which is made out of Corian. We are all familiar with the kitchen countertops made from Corian. Well, this whole house is made from it! The students designed the house and went into the factory in Spain to cut and machine the large wall panels. The house is beautiful, and the pieces fit together very well. The presentation is quite impressive.

The judges who will evaluate these teams have a difficult challenge!

All in all, things are going well here. Until tomorrow, adiós.

Richard King is the director of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. Throughout the Solar Decathlon Europe competition, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon organizers are reporting from Madrid.

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