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Photo of small houses on either side of a wide path. The Washington Monument is shown in the distance.

An aerial photo captures the Solar Decathlon houses on the National Mall.
(Credit: Richard King/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Photo of a group of middle school students posing underneath a Solar Decathlon banner.

Parkland Middle School students tour the Solar Decathlon on Solar Education Day.
(Credit: Robin Ashmore/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Photo of a group of young people standing on a raised platform with a Solar Decathlon sign as a backdrop.

Team California rejoices at its first-place award for the Communications contest.
(Credit: Robin Ashmore/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Solar Decathlon 2009

Daily Journal - October 13, 2009

Competition Intensifies With Only Two Days Remaining

Solar Decathlon competitors really start feeling the pressure now. Today marks the sixth day of the competition, and the point spread remains very thin between the two front-runners, Team California and Team Germany. Team California took first place in the Communications Contest announced today. This follows the first-place award it received yesterday in the Architecture contest. Also today, the Engineering and Lighting juries continue their evaluations. Lighting results will be announced Thursday, while Engineering, and overall, results will be revealed in what could be a down-to-the-wire, make-or-break announcement at the Awards Ceremony on Friday morning.

The weather forecast calls for a drop in temperatures, testing the houses even further. After running cooling systems, the teams will have to switch gears and activate their heating systems.

Communications Contest Award

Melody Bell, deputy assistant secretary for business administration in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the Department of Energy, greeted and congratulated the teams for their successful efforts in reaching an ever-growing audience. Representing the jury, Jaime Van Mourik from the U.S. Green Building Council commented, "We were inspired and amazed to see how far the bar is raised every year." In an extremely close contest, deliberations lasted five hours and came down to one-hundredth of a point.

First Place: Team California

The jury lauded Team California for having in-depth knowledge of its audiences, asking clever questions to engage visitors, and generally offering a consistent and high-quality learning experience. Accepting the award, a team member said, "This is so exciting to us because there were so many sleepless nights, and it's all students who did this."

Second Place (Tie): Cornell University and Team Ontario/BC

Van Mourik commended Cornell for "an excellent exhibition tour, presented with enthusiasm and thorough information on all aspects of the house and project, and a most engaging Web site home page featuring a video tour." Taking advantage of learning opportunities in long lines of visitors waiting to gain entry to the home, Team Ontario/BC provided informative and easy-to-read signage, designed seating at the beginning and end of the tour, and expertly addressed "exhibition fatigue."

Communications Contest Jurors:

  • Jaime Van Mourik, U.S. Green Building Council
  • Maureen McNulty, D&R International Ltd.
  • Alan Wickstrom, BuildingOnline Inc.

Solar Education Day

Adding to the competition excitement, about 60 busloads of schoolchildren, mostly middle-schoolers, arrived for Solar Education Day. The kids were given a presentation on solar energy and energy efficiency in the Education Center and enjoyed tours of the homes and sack lunches on the lawn of the National Mall