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If You Build It, They Will Come

Friday, June 18, 2010

The real measure of success is: If you build it, will they come? This is the first time a Solar Decathlon is being held in Madrid, so one never really knows if the people will like it until the doors open to public visits on the first day. At 11 a.m., people were waiting to get into the village, and it wasn’t long before lines of people were waiting to get inside the houses. It is very gratifying to see the public interest. I assume, because today is Friday, we will see larger crowds this weekend. Congratulations to everyone involved. The hard work and dedication has produced a successful event!

I got to see Arts et Métiers Paris Tech’s concentrating collector in action today. I was excited because it is rare to see inside one when it is operating. The way the collector is mounted on the roof, you can look up into it when you are on the back side of the house and see how it works. In the concentrator, the sun is magnified many times. This one looks about 30 to 50 times. That means the sun’s strength is 30–50 times stronger and hotter. The sun is reflected linearly along the horizontal axis of the entire length of the collector. A thin strip of photovoltaic solar cells, about two inches (three centimeters) wide by 20 feet (6 meters) long are mounted where the focus of the sunlight is directed. The electrical output is about 2 kilowatts. The Paris Tech collector is also producing hot water. The receiver was glowing very bright when I walked by—a rare sight.

Today is the first day of scoring. Teams had to wash and dry a load of towels and use their air conditioning. As I walked around the other side of the Paris Tech house, I could see their towels hanging out to dry—another demonstration of solar energy at work, in this case solar drying.

This weekend, three juries—Architecture, Industrialization, and Communications—will evaluate the houses. The Architecture points will be announced Sunday at 8 p.m., and Industrialization will be announced on Monday at 5 p.m.. I can’t wait to learn what the juries think of all these impressive houses.

Don’t forget that you can keep up with the detailed scoring and action at You can also vote for your favorite house!

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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