SolarTown Greets Solar Decathlon Participants

SolarTown greeted some of the Solar Decathlon participants last evening at our offices in Washington, DC. In anticipation of the reception, we created a photo gallery in our offices of the 20 solar homes on the National Mall—which made a great backdrop to some of the evening’s lively discussions.

SolarTown Photo Gallery of Solar Homes in Solar Decathlon

SolarTown Photo Gallery of Solar Homes in Solar Decathlon

Even though we at SolarTown have visited the Mall throughout the competition, the reception gave us the opportunity to talk informally with some of the Solar Decathlon participants about their experiences and challenges—their triumphs and their frustrations.  

We have been especially impressed with the Alberta entry in the Solar Decathlon, because the team developed a solution that fits the particularities of the harsh environment and low sunlight in Alberta. The judges may not have agreed with us, but we thought that the architecture of the Alberta solar home outshined many of the other solar homes in the competition. 

We were pleased that a couple of members of that team came to share their views with other attendees.  Since their entry was accepted in January 2008, they have had as many as 80 people working on the house, and 20 people travelled to Washington to set up and work in the solar home. The competition is friendly but tough. Even opening a window or opening the refrigerator in their solar home uses energy and can count in the standings.

SolarTown's Tom Fitzgerald with Alberta Team Members

SolarTown's Tom Fitzgerald with Alberta Team Members

The members of the Alberta team shared their views and perspective on the Solar Decathlon. They answered some of our questions, why, for example only existing technology is employed in their solar home. They explained that if they used new technology, they would have to obtain all of the UL approvals before being deployed in the home. Hence, there is a premium on using what is currently available.
 
Because this is a decathlon, ten individual competitions, every team has had to do a balancing act—what to emphasize in their individual solar homes: go for the biggest solar array with the most expensive and efficient solar panels, or go for marketability, or go for clean lines for the architectural component of the competition. And what you see is 20 different excellent solutions in homes that are displayed on the Mall. 
 
 
Team Alberta's Entry in Solar Decathlon

Team Alberta's Entry in Solar Decathlon

The participants also were able to compare notes on government incentives to promote solar. The Alberta team members  reported that the utility in Alberta intends to put a solar panel on every roof in the province—that makes the various incremental approaches that we take in the States look quaint by comparison. The Alberta solar home travels from Washington DC to the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010, and then back to Alberta.  The Alberta team and the teams from the 19 other solar homes competing on the Mall have substantially contributed to the understanding and use of solar energy. The Decathlon results will be announced on Friday, but all twenty Solar Decathlon teams are winners for having competed.

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