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Solar Decathlon

The Solar Decathlon joins 20 college and university teams in a competition to design, build, and operate the most attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered house.

For three weeks in October 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy will host the Solar Decathlon—a competition in which 20 teams of college and university students compete to design, build, and operate the most attractive, effective, and energy-efficient solar-powered house. The Solar Decathlon is also an event to which the public is invited to observe the powerful combination of solar energy, energy efficiency, and the best in home design.

The Solar Decathlon consists of three major phases: Building: This is where most of the work—and the learning—happens. In addition to designing houses that use innovative, high-tech elements in ingenious ways, students have to raise funds, communicate team activities, collect supplies, and work with contractors. Although the Solar Decathlon competition receives the most attention, it's the hard work that students put in during the building phase that makes or breaks a team. Moving to the Solar Village: When it's time for the Solar Decathlon, the teams transport their houses to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and rebuild them on site. Competing: During the competition itself, the teams receive points for their performance in 10 contests and open their homes to the public.

 Purpose The Solar Decathlon brings attention to one of the biggest challenges we face—an ever-increasing need for energy. As an internationally recognized event, it offers powerful solutions—using energy more efficiently and using energy from renewable sources. The Solar Decathlon has several goals:

To educate the student participants—the "Decathletes"—about the benefits of energy efficiency, renewable energy and green building technologies. As the next generation of engineers, builders, and communicators, the Decathletes will be able to use this knowledge in their studies and their future careers.

To raise awareness among the general public about renewable energy and energy efficiency, and how solar energy technologies can reduce energy usage. To help solar energy technologies enter the marketplace faster. This competition encourages the research and development of energy efficiency and energy production technologies.

To foster collaboration among students from different academic disciplines—including engineering and architecture students, who rarely work together until they enter the workplace.

To promote an integrated or "whole building design" approach to new construction. This approach differs from the traditional design/build process because the design team considers the interactions of all building components and systems to create a more comfortable building, save energy, and reduce environmental impact.

To demonstrate to the public the potential of Zero Energy Homes, which produce as much energy from renewable sources, such as the sun and wind, as they consume. Even though the home might be connected to a utility grid, it has net zero energy consumption from the utility provider.