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Around the World with Solar Decathlon

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

By Linda Silverman

Photo of a house at dusk.

This house was designed and constructed by students from Missouri University of Science and Technology as part of Solar Decathlon 2015 in California. | Photo by Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition now spans five continents – from the United States to Spain, France, Colombia, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, to China – bringing together collegiate teams from around the world to address some of the most pressing global energy issues of our time.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Energy signed Memorandums of Understanding to launch two new competitions. The first Solar Decathlon Africa will take place in Morocco in 2019, and the second Solar Decathlon Latin America and Caribbean will be in Colombia in 2018.

Solar Decathlon has grown in popularity since its inception in 2002, and now sheds light on solutions to energy challenges around the globe. The student teams competing in Solar Decathlon are made up of tomorrow’s engineers, architects, researchers, and policy makers. They are highly motivated and spend two years problem-solving and creating sustainable homes of the future.

As a robust workforce training platform, Solar Decathlon prepares students to become our next generation of industry professionals that will seek jobs in their respective fields.

Similar to the Olympics’ event, Solar Decathlon consists of 10 contests, ranging from architecture and engineering to energy performance, water conservation and communications. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends design excellence and smart energy production with innovation, market potential, energy, and water efficiency.

Teams strive for innovation while demonstrating cost-effective technologies that homeowners can use immediately to save energy and money.

For a country like Morocco, the competition aligns with its goal of reaching 42% of its total installed electricity generation capacity with renewable energy resources by 2020 and 52% by 2030. Morocco has been in contact with several universities in Africa that have already expressed interest in participating in this event. A call for proposals to participate in Solar Decathlon Africa will take place in 2017.

Internationally, each event is tailored to the host country’s unique economic and environmental circumstances. For example, in the Middle East, the competing teams must adapt their designs to the region’s heat, dust, and high humidity, while teams competing in China must take multifamily and high-density urban lifestyles into account. Upcoming Solar Decathlons will add to the more than 200 houses that have already competed in Solar Decathlons.

The Solar Decathlon China (SDC) is set for 2018 in Dezhou, Shandong. It features a net-zero energy site, net-zero carbon emission, and net-zero water waste park with education, entertainment, and exhibition functions. The Solar Decathlon Middle East (SDME) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, will be held in 2018. The 22 teams planning to compete have students representing 37 universities and 16 countries.

The eighth U.S. event, Solar Decathlon 2017, will be held Oct. 5-15, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. It will feature a sustainability expo, professional development and consumer workshops, middle school education events, and a community festival. Visitors are welcome to tour the teams’ houses for free, as well as visit the expo to gather ideas to use in their own homes.

Each Solar Decathlon competition involves thousands of university students and tens of thousands of visitors. The Solar Decathlon format is an award-winning vehicle for workforce development, clean energy outreach, education, and technology demonstration.

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