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Denver, Colorado
October 5-15, 2017

Archive for August, 2013

California Challenge Brings Energy-Efficient Racing to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 and XPO

Friday, August 23, 2013

By Amy Vaughn

Mark your calendars for an exciting new addition to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 and XPO! Oct. 4–6, 2013, the XPO Transportation Zone will feature the California Challenge, a competitive time trial of energy-efficient vehicles. 

The California Challenge joins two energy-efficient racing competitions in one exciting event with the goal of educating high school and collegiate students while increasing public awareness of efficient electric vehicles. The objective is to drive alternative-energy vehicles as far as possible in one hour on a closed-loop course using limited electrical energy. The California Challenge includes:

  • Energy Invitational
    The Energy Invitational is a competition to determine which team can drive the farthest on $1 of the energy of their choice. University race teams, enthusiasts, hobbyists, inventors, Formula Sun Grand Prix competitors, and OEM (original equipment manufacturer) race teams are welcome to compare their performance on the same track on the same day.
  • Electrathon America
    Electrathon vehicles are single-person, lightweight, aerodynamic, high-efficiency vehicles that are electrically powered by standard lead-acid battery packs. High school teams will compete to see who can drive the farthest in one hour.

The California Challenge provides a same-track, same-day comparison of the performance of different types of energy-efficient racers. All races are open to the public.

Photo of electrathon vehicles racing on course marked by traffic cones.

The 2013 Washington DC Electric Vehicle Grand Prix at National Harbor on June 8 featured high school teams racing Electrathon electric vehicles. The top three teams are invited to race in the California Challenge Oct. 4–6. (Credit: Richard King/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

The Orange County Great Park—located on the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Irvine, California—is the host of U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013 and XPO. The Orange County Great Park has four runways, each 1 mile long. These runways provide an excellent venue for vehicle time trials and performance demonstrations.

Learn more about the California Challenge or register your team today.

Amy Vaughn is the Web coordinator of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

University of Wollongong Wins SD China!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

By Richard King

I am proud to be an American—and prouder yet to be an employee of the U.S. Department of Energy. We brought an inspiring and beneficial competition to the People’s Republic of China! By the end of the event, a quarter-million people will visit the competition houses displayed at Solar Decathlon China. The event has made a real impression on the government and people of Datong. I hope it leads to positive change.

Photo of a group of students cheering on a stage. They hold a banner that says “University of Wollongong: Australia.”

Team UOW from Australia rejoices after being announced as the winners of Solar Decathlon China.

Team UOW from the University of Wollongong in Australia held the winning trophy high this morning and rejoiced in a remarkable victory. Its entry was the first retrofitted house entered in a decathlon. Instead of designing and building a new house from the ground up, they took an old house and refurbished it. They added new insulation to the walls and attic, installed new windows, and changed some of the interior rooms for more functionality. The end result was a modern, very energy-efficient house that won the praise of everyone—especially the jurors—who went inside for a tour. This morning, the team was awarded first place in Architecture and Solar Application! I will remember them as the team from Down Under who always greeted you with a friendly “G’day, mate!”  

Photo of a group of students cheering a raising a small trophy in the air.

Team SCUT, the second-place winner from South China University of Technology and Huazhong University of Science and Technology celebrates.

Team SCUT from South China University of Technology and Huazhong University of Science and Technology took second place. It moved ahead of Sweden with its near-perfect performance. Team SCUT received the highest score in four of the performance-based competitions: Hot Water, Appliances, Home Entertainment, and Energy Balance. It also won third in the Architecture Contest. The team was overjoyed and so happy to take a top honor. I am sure people throughout China are proud of this team.

Team Sweden from Chalmers University of Technology won third place. The team was in the top of the standings throughout the competition and finished with a strong performance. I loved that you had to put your shoes in a basket by the door before entering their house. Then, after touring the house in your socks, you would look for your shoes in a basket by the back door. The house, designed for college students to live in, was enjoyed by all.

As a proud employee of the U.S. Department of Energy, I couldn’t be happier. We nurtured this event in America, watched it grow in Europe, and witnessed it reach new heights here in China. I am so glad to see our good work spread around the world.

There are so many people to thank for making the first Solar Decathlon China a success: The National Energy Administration, the City of Datong, sponsors, students, faculty, and the hundreds of volunteers who worked tirelessly. They deserve our deepest thanks and appreciation.

And the student decathletes, especially. They bring us so much hope for a better future.

Richard King is the director of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

South China University Takes the Lead at Solar Decathlon China

Friday, August 9, 2013

Richard King

The results of three contests were announced at Solar Decathlon China this morning. Teams gathered in the auditorium of the Sun Palace, and jury members announced the first, second, and third place for Engineering, Communications, and Market Appeal. The results are:


  1. University of Wollongong – Australia
  2. South China University of Technology and Huazhong University of Science and Technology – China
  3. Chalmers University of Technology – Sweden


  1. Chalmers University of Technology – Sweden
  2. University of Wollongong – Australia
  3. South China University of Technology and Huazhong University of Science and Technology – China

Market Appeal

  1. South China University of Technology and Huazhong University of Science and Technology – China
  2. New Jersey Institute of Technology and Harbin Institute of Technology – USA/China (tie)
  1. University of Wollongong – Australia (tie)

As of last night, the team from Tel Aviv University, Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, Neri Bloomfield School of Design and Education, College of Management Academic Studies (Israel) was in first place, but by less than one point. They must have felt good when they went to sleep!

Now, as a result of 300 points being awarded at once, the standings have changed. The team from South China University of Technology and Huazhong University of Science and Technology is in first place, and Chalmers University of Technology from Sweden is in second. The University of Wollongong from Australia is in third, and the Israeli team is fourth. But there are fewer than 10 points separating them, so this competition is much too close to call.

Photo of the house built by South China University of Technology and Huazhong University of Science and Technology.

The team from South China University of Technology and Huazhong University of Science and Technology won first place for Market Appeal and is currently in first place overall.

Two things stand out. As of last night, when the standings reflected only the measured, performance-based contests, 16 of the 19 teams were within 20 points of one another, and the last three were not far behind. That indicates all the houses are performing well, and it is very exciting. Also, more than 100,000 people have visited Solar Decathlon China in four days. With another four days of public tours, more people than ever before will see these houses. It’s so important to prove to them that solar energy works and energy efficiency saves money.

Second, the caliber of Solar Decathlon competitors around the world is rising to new levels. The teams currently leading the competition are from Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, and North America. Solar Decathlon China is showing that no matter where the houses are designed and built, they can compete on a level playing field. That’s a sign the world is getting technologically smarter in the clean energy field.

Eight months ago, Solar Decathlon China organizers conducted a contest for an event slogan. More than 800 slogans were submitted, and this one won:

Brighten the Future. Harmonize the World.

How prophetic. These teams are doing just that.

Richard King is the director of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Solar Decathlon China Update

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I knew when the City of Datong offered to build a new site for its Solar Decathlon that it was going to be spectacular, and everything so far has exceeded my expectations. The site is beautiful and spacious. It has ample facilities for the team houses, two office buildings, central gardens, and thousands of guests. There are two large towers for viewing the village, and all the decathletes stay in the Sun Palace, which is adjacent to the site.

The assembly period had a few problems. It rained very hard, which made mud of the site and delayed the pouring of some concrete pads. The teams had to wait two days, but ample time was in the schedule. All but three teams finished in time for the opening day start, and it only took another day for the rest to finish.

Photo of people standing in line to enter the Team Sweden house.

Visitors lined up to get a tour of Team Sweden’s house. Next door, and partially in view, is Team UOW from Australia.

No matter how many Solar Decathlons I have been to, I always worry before the first public day. If you build it, will they come? Well, before the doors were open, the fears were gone. Thousands poured into the site by 9 a.m.! I asked the Solar Decathlon China media team for the first weekend statistics, and this is what they reported:

  • Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 3 and 4, Solar Decathlon China attracted 54,000 visitors.
  • Taxi drivers transported 36 people older than 70 to visit the solar house for free on Aug. 4.
  • More than 100 media reported from the opening ceremony.

Not bad for an opening weekend. That is double the attendance that the U.S. and European versions typically have. I took some pictures of the people waiting to see the houses. Many use umbrellas to shade themselves, which is smart. It’s hot. Temperatures have been in the 90s every day.

Photo of the Australia and Sweden houses. A PV array is in the foreground to the left.

Team UOW from Australia (foreground) and Team Sweden (right) are the current leaders of Solar Decathlon China.

This is the largest international event in Datong’s history. The people are provincial, and many have never been out of the city, much less to another country. The opportunity to see how others live around the world is the main attraction. They are seeing some amazing houses with cultural differences. They can travel around the world from Australia to Sweden to Israel to America to Singapore and back to China—in just one morning. And the best part is that they are learning how people all over the world are using clean energy to power their homes.

The American teams are doing well. They are currently in sixth, seventh, eleventh, and eighteenth place of 19 competing teams. The point spread from the first place team to eleventh is only 20 points, and a lot of points will be awarded later in the week.

Richard King is the director of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Solar Decathlon China Kicks Off

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Yesterday’s Solar Decathlon China opening ceremony was grand!

A huge stage, complete with three video screens, was set up on the steps of the Sun Palace. The mayor of Datong opened Friday’s opening ceremony by speaking about the future—a cleaner, brighter future, thanks to the efforts of students and faculty participating in Solar Decathlon China. Other dignitaries, including Assistant Secretary David Danielson of the U.S. Department of Energy, also spoke. Dr. Danielson said how pleased he was to be in Datong witnessing the first Solar Decathlon in China. He congratulated everyone for making the competition possible.

Next, all the teams were introduced as they paraded across the stage. The decathletes wore their team uniforms and waved their school and country flags with pride. Finally, it was their time to shine!

Photo of seven men in suits switching a large switch forward.

Dignitaries flip a switch to turn on the new solar power.

Next, dignitaries were called to the stage to officially start the competition. A huge switch took seven people to lift to turn off the old energy and turn on the new energy.  At that moment, the video screens exploded with bright sunlight, and the first Solar Decathlon China officially began. All 1,500 in attendance cheered their delight!

The rest of the day, the media and VIPs had the first opportunity to see the team houses and meet the decathletes. 

Friday also marked the first day of scoring for the competition.  Now, we can begin to see the standings of the teams.  Be sure to check them out.

Photo of crowds of people in the Solar Decathlon China village.

The public exhibit at Solar Decathlon China draws large crowds on its
first day.

Today, Aug. 3, was the first day Solar Decathlon China was open to the public. We are always apprehensive about the first public day. Will people come? By 9 a.m., our worries were over. Thousands of people poured into the village! We are happy and overwhelmed. If attendance keeps up, Solar Decathlon China will break all previous attendance records from the United States and Europe.

Richard King is the director of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.



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