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Photo of 2005 University of Colorado house.

The University of Colorado team used natural materials, a rooftop PV system, and building-integrated PV awnings to build its solar home.
(Credit: Chris Gunn, Solar Decathlon)

Solar Decathlon 2005

A New Generation of Energy

Students from the University of Colorado team, defending champions of the first Solar Decathlon in 2002, share their thoughts about this year's competition.

In this second Solar Decathlon competition, teams from the United States, Canada, and Europe gather amidst a changing tide of worldwide energy use to offer a ray of inspiration. We of the University of Colorado Solar Decathlon Team are thrilled to be here.

For the students competing, the Solar Decathlon offers a learning opportunity rarely seen in academia. These design/build projects enable us to gain hands-on education that is immediately applicable in the workplace. Moreover, the growing popularity of solar power makes us optimistic that jobs will be available. A recent study by Yale University shows 90% of Americans think building more solar power facilities is a "good idea." Colorado's Amendment 37 solar set-aside provision and the nationwide Million Solar Roofs Initiative are examples of state and federal programs that hold promise to spur construction of new solar power systems. On a municipal level, cities are funding large projects such as New York City's solar subway station and San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center.

The Solar Decathlon embodies much more than job training for students in a burgeoning industry, however. It represents a sincere effort on the part of students, teachers, industry professionals, and government leaders to solve some of the most pressing energy production problems facing our world. Furthermore, it symbolizes the empowerment of a new generation. Within each team's home design lie solutions that offer opportunities to advance renewable energy technologies and increase our nation's energy independence.

Collaboration is the key. The production of a single Solar Decathlon house clearly demonstrated to our team that we not only had to work in collaboration, but we also had to blur the traditional lines between engineers and architects to solve often difficult problems. That we had to reach out to those around us — design firms, builders, suppliers, and community leaders — for advice, support, and encouragement. We found kindred spirits and learned so much. But so did they. We achieved things none of us thought possible when we began planning for the competition more than two years ago.

Multiply our experience by 18 — the number of teams competing in the Decathlon — and imagine the impact of this competition. And think what could happen if our experience were replicated around the country and the world.

Innovations such as solar panels attractively integrated into building designs and reliable electric systems that allow the intelligent use of power demonstrate to the public that they no longer have to sacrifice beauty or comfort for energy efficiency. In addition, a real understanding of the economics of energy production and consumption illustrate that the higher upfront costs of energy-efficient homes will be more than compensated for by long-term savings.

There is no doubt that each Solar Decathlon team has made monumental sacrifices to complete a competition entry. It also clear that each team represents a group of highly qualified young professionals who have learned to meet challenges head on. We applaud the accomplishments of every team and look forward to an environment of mutual collaboration, learning, and inspiration on the National Mall over the next few weeks. We thank the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and all the competition sponsors for their work in fostering the Solar Decathlon — and for their commitment to education and innovation.

"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!"
—Thomas Edison