What do you get when you mix solar-powered houses, teams of university students from across the globe, and a two-year-long competition? The answer: the Energy Department’s Solar Decathlon, which has a 10-year history of preparing the next wave of energy leaders to enter the workforce.
Ten years ago this week, the Energy Department held the first Solar Decathlon on the National Mall in Washington, DC, challenging collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. Fourteen pioneering teams built solar houses for that first competition, and more than 100,000 people visited the solar village to see the ultra-efficient homes. Throughout the two-week public event, teams competed in 10 contests designed to judge each team’s ability to blend comfort and attractive designs with maximum efficiency and energy production, and when all the points were tallied, the University of Colorado team was crowned the overall winner.
After the first Solar Decathlon, the competition has occurred biennially since 2005 as a way to educate consumers about affordable clean energy products that save energy and money, and provide hands-on training for jobs in the clean energy economy. Since the competition started in 2002, more than 170 collegiate teams — over 17,000 students — have competed in three competitions around world: the program’s flagship Solar Decathlon, Solar Decathlon Europe and most recently Solar Decathlon China.
Throughout the years, the award-winning Solar Decathlon has been honored for its commitment to educating the next generation of engineers and architects. Most recently, the program was recognized as one of this year’s Bright Ideas — an award presented by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government to innovative government initiatives that demonstrate creative solutions to issues of public concern.
Without all the dedicated decathletes, organizers, and visitors, the Solar Decathlon wouldn’t be the success it is today. To all who helped create the inaugural Solar Decathlon and the six worldwide Solar Decathlon events since, happy anniversary!