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Photo of disassembled Solar Decathlon house on a flatbed trailer. A crane stands at the ready to unload the solar house onto the National Mall.

Student teams worked through the night to unload their solar houses on the first night of access to the National Mall. Here, the Cornell University team prepares to unload their house sometime after midnight.

Photo of dozens of people waiting to register for the 2005 Solar Decathlon.

Hundreds of students, faculty advisors, and organizers register on the first day of the 2005 Solar Decathlon.

Solar Decathlon 2005

Daily Journal — September 29, 2005

The 2005 Solar Decathlon is finally here! Teams are arriving in Washington, D.C., with great anticipation for the start of the 2005 Solar Decathlon.

Students from 18 colleges and universities from around the globe have been working for more than 2 years to prepare for this solar competition. The past 2 years have entailed designing, engineering, and constructing their solar houses. The past few weeks have been even more intense as the teams worked night and day to put the finishing touches on their houses and then prepared to transport them to Washington, D.C.

Imagine building your dream house with everything set up exactly the way you want it. And as soon at the flooring is installed and the final coat of paint dries, you need to take the house apart, put it on a truck, and move it thousands of miles away.

This has been the life of the Solar Decathlon teams. So, it's no surprise that the teams are excited for the competition to begin and relieved to finally be here. Some, such as the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, had to travel over the Atlantic Ocean.

The first stop for the teams was registration. Several hundred students and faculty advisors register for the event to gain access to the National Mall. Teams also attend orientation meetings. The excitement and drama heightened as everyone involved counted down the minutes until midnight, when our access to the Mall became official. With dozens of students on hand and a line of trucks ready to roll, I cut the ribbon at 12:01 a.m., September 29, 2005.

Amidst loud cheers, the first truck, carrying the Canadian Solar Decathlon house (Concordia University and Université de Montréal), drove on to the National Mall and into the construction zone. A non-stop parade of trucks and cranes proceeded by for almost an hour as they maneuvered to unload houses and equipment. Houses that started their journey as far away as Spain now traveled the final few feet to their temporary location for the next three weeks.

Large lights bathed the Mall in light and gave it a glow. Standing in the middle of this controlled chaos with the Capitol Building at one end and the Washington Monument at the other, I couldn't help but be inspired — especially by the students' energy and tremendous work. What will unfold over the next week as the houses become whole again, and the completed houses transform the Mall into a solar village will be amazing.

All in all, the first night went smoothly. A couple teams had difficulty getting here. The Madrid house was damaged in shipment over the ocean and needs repair. The Crowder College team broke an axel on their truck and was delayed over a day as they waited for a new truck to arrive. And where is the Rhode Island School of Design? We haven't seen or heard from them yet. By morning, many of the houses were unloaded. Many were still "wrapped" in pieces, but you could start to get a glimpse of the features and outlines of the designs.

What a start! We have waited more than two years to see what the teams have designed. And now the fruit of that endeavor is becoming apparent. Every team has taken a different approach to the same challenge — to find not only the most aesthetic design, but also the best performing house. The next few days will be very revealing to see who has the best strategy.

Reporting from the Village,
Richard King