The U.S. Solar Decathlon – October 3-13, 2013 – Sparks Excitement, Research, and Collaboration

Solar DecathlonIn 2002 the first Solar Decathlon was held on the National Mall in Washington D.C. The initial event, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and held biennially since 2005, took place at a time when the tragedy of 9/11 was still fresh on the minds of Americans, dependence on foreign energy sources was of primary concern, the cost of natural gas was rising steeply, and the state of California had just experienced a season of rolling blackouts. This year the U.S. Solar Decathlon will be held in California, for the first time not in Washington D.C. The locale may be different but the mission, purpose, and spark of inventiveness among college students directed toward advancing solar power usage provided by the event remain constant.

The purpose of the Solar Decathlon is three-fold:

  1. Provide students of varying educational pursuits with beneficial, rare training that serves as preparation to join the renewable energy workforce.
  2. Educate all involved about the how clean-energy products and innovative design solutions provide environmental benefits and opportunities to save money.
  3. Give the public a firsthand experience of the affordability and comfort of homes that combine energy-conscious construction and appliances with solar energy systems.

One of the exciting aspects of the Solar Decathlon is that this experimental program has initiated collaboration among students in numerous fields, such as sciences, engineering, communications, architecture, interior design, landscaping, and more. Their goal in coming together as competing teams is to create a solar-powered home that will be open to the public at the event; the home should be attractive, energy-efficient, solar-powered, and cost-effective. The team which does the best job of creating an affordable, visually appealing home that succeeds at maximum energy efficiency and optimal solar energy production will win the competition.

Huge benefits of the decathlon are that it encourages innovation, drives awareness of available solar technologies, nurtures growth in new markets, and encourages student integration among different fields.

There is no doubt that the U. S. Solar Decathlon has made an impact since its inception. For example:

  • Solar Decathlon 2007There are now Solar Decathlons in Europe and China.
  • With the participation of collegiate teams from across the U.S., the event puts the spotlight on the role of solar energy in changing the landscape of energy sources that are implemented in the states.
  • There have been nearly 17,000 collegiate participants since its inception.
  • The event has earned a worldwide reputation as a workplace development opportunity and successful educational program for students.
  • Through widespread media coverage, the Solar Decathlon has opened the eyes of tens of millions of consumers about the affordability, benefits, and availability of solar power solutions.
  • The event removes doubt that, in both solar deployment and education, the U.S. is truly a global competitor.

The Solar Decathlon will be held in Irvine, California, October 3 through 13 at the Orange County Great Park. Competition houses will be open to the public at no cost for eight days over two weekends. Visitors will have the opportunity to tour the solar-powered homes and learn how various solar-powered energy-saving features can help cut energy costs.

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