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 (DOE) Solar Decathlon is a collegiate competition, comprising 10 contests, that challenges student teams to design and build highly efficient and innovative buildings powered by renewable energy. The winners will be those teams that best blend design architectural and engineering excellence with innovation, market potential, building efficiency, and smart energy production. In the summer of 2018, DOE merged its two student building design competitions into one Solar Decathlon competition.

The combined competition features two tracks, the Design Challenge and the Build Challenge. The Solar Decathlon provides a hands-on experience and unique training that prepares the competing students to enter the clean energy workforce. This international competition has been a driving force in raising awareness about clean energy since its inception in 2002. Technologies and solutions used in Solar Decathlon homes have advanced the residential building industry both in the United States and abroad.

After the first Solar Decathlon was held in 2002, the competition occurred biennially in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017.[1] The Solar Decathlon 2017 was located in Denver, Colorado, adjacent to the 61st & Peña station on the University of Colorado A line commuter train connecting Denver International Airport to downtown Union Station. In addition to the competition, Solar Decathlon 2017 also featured a sustainability expo, professional development and consumer workshops, and middle-school education events.[2]

Open to the public and free of charge, the Solar Decathlon allows visitors to tour energy- and water-efficient houses, and gather ideas to save energy and conserve water in their own homes.

The Solar Decathlon 2017 competition was presented by DOE and administered by Energetics, Incorporated, a subsidiary of VSE Corporation. Previous competitions were administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Since the first competition in 2002, the Solar Decathlon has expanded internationally to include competitions in Europe, China, Latin America and Caribbean, the Middle East, and Africa.[3] Solar Decathlon Europe was established under a 2007 memorandum of understanding between the United States and Spain , which hosted competitions in 2010 and 2012. France hosted in 2014.[4] The Solar Decathlon Europe 2019 was hosted by Hungary[5] in Szentendre.[6] The next Solar Decathlon Europe was planned for 2021, in Wuppertal, Germany and postponed to 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[7]

The Solar Decathlon China was established with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between DOE, China’s National Energy Administration, Peking University and Applied Materials on January 20, 2011. The first Solar Decathlon China took place in August 2013 in the city of Datong. The next Solar Decathlon China will take place in 2018 and was formed through a memorandum of understanding among the United States Department of Energy, the People’s Republic of China, and the China Overseas Development Corporation.[8][9]

Solar Decathlon Latin America and Caribbean was established under a memorandum of understanding between the United States Department of Energy and the government of Colombia in 2014. The first competition was held in Cali in December 2015, and another competition is planned for 2019.[10]

Solar Decathlon Middle East, to be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 2018, was formed by a memorandum of understanding between DOE and the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority in 2015. An additional Solar Decathlon Middle East is also expected to take place in 2020.[11]

On November 15, 2016, the Moroccan Ministry of Energy, Mines, Water, and the Environment (MEMEE); the Moroccan Research Institute in Solar Energy and New Energies (IRESEN); and DOE signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on the development of Solar Decathlon Africa. The competition is planned for 2019.[12]


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, 18 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.[13] The University of Maryland was the overall competition winner.[14]

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).[15][16]

The seventh Solar Decathlon was held October 8 – 18, 2015, also at the Orange County Great Park. Stevens Institute of Technology was the overall winner. This was their third Solar Decathlon competition.

The eighth Solar Decathlon in the U.S. was held October 5–15, 2017, in Denver, Colorado, at the 61st & Peña Station on the University of Colorado A line commuter rail connecting Denver International Airport to downtown Union Station. Eleven teams competed to design, build, and operate the most cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive solar-powered house. The Swiss Team won the overall competition with their entry, NeighborHub. It was the first entry for this combined team of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, School of Engineering and Architecture Fribourg, Geneva University of Art and Design, and the University of Fribourg.


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".[17]

Scope of contests[edit]

Like the Olympic decathlon, the DOE Solar Decathlon consists of 10 contests. The contests evaluate cost-effective design; innovation balanced with market potential; water and energy efficiency; energy production and time-of-use energy; and communications strategies. Each Solar Decathlon contest is worth a maximum of 100 points, for a potential competition total of 1,000 points. Teams earn points through task completion, performance monitoring, and jury evaluation. The contests may change after each competition in response to participant feedback, market dynamics, and DOE goals.

The contests for the 2019-2020 event:

  • Energy Performance
  • Engineering
  • Financial Feasibility and Affordability
  • Resilience
  • Architecture
  • Operations
  • Market Potential
  • Comfort and Environmental Quality
  • Innovation
  • Presentation



The project NeighborHub by the Swiss team won the overall competition.[18][19]

Teams selected for the Solar Decathlon 2017 competition held in Denver, Colorado:


Teams selected for the Solar Decathlon 2015 competition held at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California:

Just as birds use materials from their environment to build a nest, Missouri University of Science and Technology reused common materials to build its U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 entry.


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 in Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California, the first one to be held outside of Washington, DC,:[23][24]


Teams selected for the Solar Decathlon 2011 competition:


The competing teams in Solar Decathlon 2009:[46][47]


Georgia Tech's entry to Solar Decathlon 2007, located on Tech campus.
University of Puerto Rico

The 20 competing teams in Solar Decathlon 2007:


Pittsburgh Synergy Solar Decathlon House at Carnegie Mellon University.

The 18 competing universities in Solar Decathlon 2005:


The 14 competing teams in Solar Decathlon 2002:

See also[edit]


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Government.

  1. ^ "History". Solar Decathlon. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
  2. ^ "Plan Your Visit". Solar Decathlon. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  3. ^ "International". Solar Decathlon. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  4. ^ "Solar Decathlon Europe". Solar Decathlon. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
  5. ^ "SDE Europe 2019 Challenge results". Solar Decathlon. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
  6. ^ "SDE Europe 2019. The art of smart building". Solar Decathlon Europe. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
  7. ^ "Solar Decathlon Europe ...goes urban". Solar Decathlon Europe. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
  8. ^ "Solar Decathlon China". Solar Decathlon. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  9. ^ "TEAM UOW'S ILAWARRA FLAME HOUSE - WINNER OF THE SOLAR DECATHLON CHINA 2013". University of Wollongong. September 25, 2013. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
  10. ^ "Solar Decathlon Latin America and Caribbean". Solar Decathlon. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  11. ^ "Solar Decathlon Middle East". Solar Decathlon. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  12. ^ "Solar Decathlon Africa". US Department of Energy. Retrieved August 28, 2017. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  13. ^[bare URL PDF]
  14. ^ "University of Maryland Wins Solar Decathlon 2011!". Solar Decathlon. October 1, 2011. Retrieved October 5, 2011.
  15. ^ "About Solar Decathlon". U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Archived from the original on January 19, 2013. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
  16. ^ "Highlights from Solar Decathlon 2013". Solar Decathlon. February 4, 2014. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
  17. ^ "2010 Honor Award: A Salute to Civic Innovators". National Building Museum. 2010. Archived from the original on March 29, 2015. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
  18. ^ "Solar Decathlon: Highlights from Solar Decathlon 2017". Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  19. ^ "- NeighborHub". Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  20. ^ "DOE Solar Decathlon: News Blog » Blog Archive » Georgia Institute of Technology Withdraws From Solar Decathlon 2017". November 22, 2016. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  21. ^ "Solar Decathlon: Washington State: Washington State University". Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  22. ^ "West Virginia University Withdraws from Solar Decathlon 2017". Solar Decathlon. May 4, 2017. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  23. ^ "Solar Decathlon 2013: New Teams! New Location!". press release. U.S. Department of Energy. January 26, 2012.
  24. ^ "DOE Announces Solar Decathlon 2013 Teams and Location". January 26, 2012.
  25. ^ "AZ State/New Mexico".
  26. ^ "AIR House".
  27. ^ "Tidewater Virginia".
  28. ^ "Middlebury College".
  29. ^ "Solar House Team, Missouri S&T".
  30. ^ "Norwich forges its own path at Solar Decathlon".
  31. ^ "Team Ontario".
  32. ^ "Radiant House".
  33. ^ " Home".
  34. ^ "Team Stanford".
  35. ^ "EcoHabit, Stevens Solar Decathlon 2013".
  36. ^ "Harvest - Team Capitol DC".
  37. ^ "Urban Eden".
  38. ^ "UTEP / College of Engineering".
  39. ^ "Team Alberta".
  40. ^ "The Phoenix House".
  41. ^ "University of Nevada Las Vegas".
  42. ^ "fluxHome".
  44. ^ "West Virginia University Solar Decathlon Team".
  45. ^ Volkmann, Christian (December 2016). Prototyping Architecture: The Solar Roofpod. ISBN 978-9881619402.
  46. ^ "Energy Department Selects Student Teams to Compete in 2009 Solar Decathlon". press release. U.S. Department of Energy. January 24, 2008.
  47. ^ "2009 Solar Decathlon contact list".

External links[edit]