Solar Decathlon

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Student-built houses powered exclusively by solar power on display in Washington D.C. at the Solar Decathlon 2009.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is an international competition that challenges 20 collegiate teams to design, build, and operate the most attractive, effective, and energy-efficient solar-powered house. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and efficiency.

The first Solar Decathlon was held in 2002. The competition has since occurred biennially in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013;[1] the next Solar Decathlon will take place in California in October 2015.[2] Open to the public and free of charge, the Solar Decathlon allows visitors to tour ultra-efficient houses, gather ideas to use in their own homes, and learn how energy-saving features can help reduce power bills.

The competition is presented by the U.S. Department of Energy and organized by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). There is also a Solar Decathlon Europe, which was established under a 2007 agreement between the United States and Spain.[3] The Solar Decathlon China was established with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the U.S. Department of Energy, China’s National Energy Administration, Peking University and Applied Materials on January 20, 2011.[4] The first Solar Decathlon China was held in 2013.[5]


The Solar Decathlon 2011 was held in the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington D.C.

The inaugural Solar Decathlon was open to the public between September 19 and October 6, 2002. Fourteen teams from across the United States, including Puerto Rico, presented their projects on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The University of Colorado was awarded first place. At the second Solar Decathlon, likewise held on the National Mall on October 6–16, 2005, eighteen teams from the United States, Canada, and Spain participated; the University of Colorado successfully defended its championship.

The third Solar Decathlon took place on the National Mall on October 12–20, 2007. Twenty teams from the United States, Canada, Spain, and Germany competed, and Technische Universität Darmstadt (Team Germany) was named the overall champion. The fourth Solar Decathlon was held on the National Mall on October 8–18, 2009, and included teams from the United States, Canada, Germany, and Spain; Team Germany was named the winner for a second time.

The fifth Solar Decathlon took place between September 23 and October 2, 2011, with nineteen participating teams representing the United States, China, New Zealand, Belgium, and Canada. The event was held in Washington D.C.'s West Potomac Park, near the Potomac River, the Tidal Basin and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, along a road between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials.[6] The University of Maryland was the overall competition winner.[7] The sixth Solar Decathlon took place on October 3–13, 2013, in Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California – it was the first Solar Decathlon to take place outside Washington D.C., and was won by Vienna University of Technology (Team Austria).[8][9]

The seventh Solar Decathlon will take place in Cali, Colombia, as the first version in Latin America & Caribbean, with main focus on social housing, regional relevance and density.[10]


In 2010, the National Building Museum awarded the Solar Decathlon an Honor Award for its emphasis on "renewable energy, energy-efficient, and environmentally responsible systems" and its role in "educating a new generation of built-environment professionals".[11]

Scope of contests[edit]

The Solar Decathlon organizers selected the following ten contests for the 2011 competition. Each contest was worth a maximum of 100 points, for a possible total of 1,000 points. Teams earn points through task completion, performance monitoring, and jury evaluation.

Contest 1: Architecture[edit]

Teams are required to design and build attractive, high-performance houses that integrate solar and energy-efficiency technology seamlessly into the design. A jury of professional architects evaluates team construction documents and the final constructed house. They evaluate three main factors: architectural elements, holistic design, and inspiration.

Contest 2: Market Appeal[edit]

For the Market Appeal Contest, teams build their houses for a target market of their choosing. Teams are then asked to demonstrate the potential of their houses to keep costs affordable within that market. A jury of professionals from the homebuilding industry evaluates how well suited each house is for everyday living; determines whether the construction documents would enable a contractor to construct the house as intended, and assesses whether the house offers potential homebuyers within the target market a good value.

Contest 3: Engineering[edit]

Solar Decathlon houses are marvels of modern engineering, and this contest “checks under the hood.” A jury of professional engineers evaluates each house for functionality, efficiency, innovation, and reliability.

Contest 4: Communications[edit]

The Solar Decathlon challenges teams to communicate about the technical aspects of their houses, as well as their experiences, to a wide audience through Web sites and exhibits of their houses on the National Mall. The Communications Contest awards points to teams based on their success in delivering clear and consistent messages and images that represent the vision, process, and results of each team’s project. A jury of Web site development and public relations experts will evaluate the team Web sites, communications plans, and student-led house tours for effectiveness.

Contest 5: Affordability[edit]

New for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011, the Affordability Contest encourages teams to design and build affordable houses that combine energy-efficient construction and appliances with renewable energy systems. A professional estimator will determine the construction cost of each house. Teams can earn the maximum possible 100 points for achieving a target construction cost of $250,000 or less. A sliding point scale will be applied to houses with estimated construction costs between $250,001 and $600,000. Houses with estimated costs that are more than $600,000 will receive zero points.

Contest 6: Comfort Zone[edit]

Teams competing in the Solar Decathlon design their houses to maintain steady, uniform indoor environmental conditions. During the competition, full points are awarded for maintaining narrow temperature and relative humidity ranges inside the houses.

Contest 7: Hot water[edit]

This contest demonstrates that a solar-powered house can provide all of the energy necessary to heat water for domestic uses. Teams score points in this contest by successfully completing several daily hot water draws.

Contest 8: Appliances[edit]

The Appliances Contest is designed to mimic the appliance use and amenity in the average U.S. home while using less energy. Points are earned for refrigerating and freezing food, washing and drying laundry, and running the dishwasher.

Contest 9: Home Entertainment[edit]

The Home Entertainment Contest is designed to demonstrate that houses powered solely by the sun can deliver more than just basic household functionality. They can also provide a comfortable setting with power for the electronics, appliances, and modern conveniences that we love. The Home Entertainment Contest gauges whether the house has what it takes to be a home. Can it accommodate the pleasures of living, such as sharing meals with friends and family, watching television, or surfing the Web?

Contest 10: Energy Balance[edit]

This contest demonstrates that the sun can supply the energy necessary for all the daily energy demands of a small household. For the contest, each house is equipped with Net metering, a utility meter that measures the energy a house produces and consumes over the course of the competition. A team receives full points for producing at least as much energy as its house needs.



AIR House of Czech Technical University team. in 2014 rebuilt in Prague as the Information Centre of the CTU

Teams selected for the Solar Decathlon 2013 competition, the first one to be held outside Washington, DC,[12] were:[13]


Teams selected for the Solar Decathlon 2011 competition were:


The competing teams in Solar Decathlon 2009 were:[34][35]


Georgia Tech's entry to Solar Decathlon 2007, located on Tech campus.

The 20 competing teams in Solar Decathlon 2007 were:


Pittsburgh Synergy Solar Decathlon House at Carnegie Mellon University.

The 18 competing universities in Solar Decathlon 2005 were:


The 14 competing teams in Solar Decathlon 2002 were:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "History". Solar Decathlon. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  2. ^ "FAQs". Solar Decathlon. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Solar Decathlon Europe". Solar Decathlon. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  4. ^ "Solar Decathlon China Coming in 2013". Solar Decathlon. January 20, 2011. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  5. ^ "TEAM UOW'S ILAWARRA FLAME HOUSE - WINNER OF THE SOLAR DECATHLON CHINA 2013". University of Wollongong. September 25, 2013. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  6. ^ *"Energy, Interior Departments Announce New Location for Solar Decathlon 2011". Solar Decathlon News Blog. United States Department of Energy. February 23, 2011. Retrieved February 28, 2011. 
    *"Map: U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011: National Mall West Potomac Park" (PDF). U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. February 23, 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2011. Retrieved January 27, 2013. 
    *Fears, Darryl (February 23, 2011). "Solar Decathlon houses now have a home on the Mall". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 27, 2011. 
  7. ^ "University of Maryland Wins Solar Decathlon 2011!". Solar Decathlon. October 1, 2011. Retrieved October 5, 2011. 
  8. ^ "About Solar Decathlon". U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Archived from the original on January 27, 2013. Retrieved January 27, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Highlights from Solar Decathlon 2013". Solar Decathlon. February 4, 2014. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "2010 Honor Award: A Salute to Civic Innovators". National Building Museum. 2010. Retrieved March 26, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Solar Decathlon 2013: New Teams! New Location!". press release. U.S. Department of Energy. 2012-01-26. 
  13. ^ "DOE Announces Solar Decathlon 2013 Teams and Location". 
  14. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ "AIR House". 
  16. ^ "鶯谷の風俗について解説します!-鶯谷観光・スポット案内板-" (in Japanese). 
  17. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ "Solar House Team, Missouri S&T". 
  19. ^ "Norwich forges its own path at Solar Decathlon". 
  20. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. ^ "Radiant House". 
  22. ^ " Home". 
  23. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. ^ "EcoHabit, Stevens Solar Decathlon 2013". 
  25. ^ "Harvest - Team Capitol DC". 
  26. ^ "Urban Eden". 
  27. ^ "UTEP / College of Engineering". 
  28. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  29. ^ "The Phoenix House". 
  30. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  31. ^ "fluxHome". 
  33. ^ "West Virginia University Solar Decathlon Team". 
  34. ^ "Energy Department Selects Student Teams to Compete in 2009 Solar Decathlon". press release. U.S. Department of Energy. 2008-01-24. 
  35. ^ "2009 Solar Decathlon contact list". 

External links[edit]