Home to Disneyland, Orange County, Calif., has been drawing tourists for decades, and soon, it will be drawing solar enthusiasts from around the world. U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu has unveiled The Orange County Great Park in Irvine as the location of the department’s Solar Decathlon 2013.
The Solar Decathlon is a competition where 20 college teams from around the world design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. The competition has been held since 2002. But the biennial contest has always been held at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. For the 2013 competition, organizers decided to reach a new audience.
Located between Los Angeles and San Diego on the grounds of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, the Orange County Great Park features novelties like a tethered helium balloon that rises 400 feet in the air, a Carousel, Farm + Food Lab, Kids Rock Playground and the Walkable Timeline. A community garden is slated to be added this year. In addition, the park has flexible space for the homes to be set up and ample visitor parking, according to DOE, which also believes that with direct freeway and rail access and generally favorable weather conditions, the park will also ensure that residents across Southern California have an opportunity to experience the Solar Decathlon.