If you build it, they will come. This iconic line from the classic 1989 Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams could just as easily be applied to a horde of well minded college students who, every other year, descend upon the National Mall in Washington D.C. to take part in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. The goal? To showcase to an American public how going energy efficient and clean energy oriented in their homes doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
20 teams from colleges and universities across the United States and other nations are tasked with designing and building innovative green homes that ideally have total costs kept under $250,000. These teams, besides being rated on affordability of their design, also are evaluated across nine other contests, as they are called, ranging from architecture and market appeal to home entertainment and energy balance. The winner, chosen as the group which earns the most points across these contests, is the team “that best blends cost-effectiveness, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.”
The Solar Decathlon, first held in 2002, has been going on every other year since 2005. For this year, controversy first sparked at the event when it was announced back in January by the National Parks Service that the Decathlon had been booted from its historic location in the waning months prior to its kick off over concerns of how much damage Mall grounds might sustain. An uproar from college students and their supporters brought the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Energy to talking, with the result being a new National Mall location – West Potomac Park – chosen to host the homes for public viewing come August.
All images in this gallery via U.S. Department of Energy
Besides the public value of seeing these homes (which you can see in concept form at this point via the gallery above – each small clickable image will take you to a larger photo and link to the specific house team page), what some might say is an even more important factor to the Solar Decathlon’s existence is the skills and psychological boost building and operating these solar powered homes will have for the college students involved. At a time when the call by President Obama is strong for a cleantech workforce, what is learned at this event by these students will give them what is needed to heed said call and hopefully succeed quite nicely as well.