The 2011 Solar Decathlon — a solar home competition in Washington, DC among some 20 colleges and universities — takes place from late September into the first week of October. In a nutshell, entries have to have at least 800 square feet of space, provide accommodations for a family of three, and be heated, cooled, and powered completely by the sun. This includes operating a TV, kitchen appliances like refrigerator, laundry and a computer. Some items have to be powered continuously for 8-hour shifts, just as they would be used in a normal home.
It’s a lot of fun to tour the homes, which are created at each school and then disassembled and reassembled on the National Mall (this year’s competition is unfortunately off the main mall, and over by the FDR memorial in the West Potomic Park area). The homes are typically open for a two-week period. During the exhibition, the homes are graded and tested by folks from the DOE, and winners are announced at the end of the competition.
Part of the design process involves creating an animated walk-through of each home, which is the first real chance to get a look at what the kids have come up with. While all are modular in nature, some are more traditional-contemporary — the University of Maryland’s entry (above) looks pretty cool, while some are, well… off the map (just wait until you see the Team California entry!).
The YouTube playlist with all 20 schools’ walk-throughs can be seen here.
I’ll be there in the fall checking ’em all out. I went to the competition in 2009, and slogged through the event in pouring rain. Here’s hoping for better weather this year.