U.S. Department of Energy

    Solar Decathlon's "Solar Village" Takes Shape on National Mall

    October 3, 2005


    Photo of the National Mall shows a long row of partially built houses with cranes and the Washington Monument in the background.

    On October 1st, the solar village began taking shape on the National Mall.
    Credit: Richard King, DOE

    Eighteen teams of students are currently building a "solar village" on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in preparation for the 2005 Solar Decathlon. Just after midnight on September 29th, solar powered and highly efficient houses began arriving from across the country and as far away as Spain, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Since then, the National Mall has seen a flurry of construction in preparation for the opening ceremonies on October 6th. The competition starts October 7th and runs through October 17th, and the homes will be open to the public every day except for October 12th.

    The 18 university teams will compete to determine who has built the house that best blends aesthetics and modern conveniences with maximum energy production and optimal energy efficiency. Over eight days, the teams will be judged in 10 areas encompassing architecture, livability, and comfort, as well as energy production for space heating and cooling, water heating, and powering lights and appliances. Each solar house must also produce enough extra power to charge up an electric car.

    Photo of students wearing hard hats working on a home with a curving arc forming the front and roof. The sides are not installed yet, and the exterior is silver and clear plastic, with solar panels mounted on the far end.

    The University of Michigan team assembles their futuristic solar home on October 2nd.
    Credit: Richard King, DOE

    Among the innovations at work this year are a structural insulated panel system made of cellulose waste and soy foam insulation, employed by the University of Colorado; movable interior walls in the University of Madrid's house; and hurricane-proof features in the home from the Florida International University. Perhaps most unique is the New York Institute of Technology's home, which generates hydrogen from solar power, stores it for later use, then uses a fuel cell to convert the hydrogen into heat and electricity. See the DOE press release.

    DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is the primary sponsor of the Solar Decathlon, along with its National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the American Institute of Architects, the National Association of Home Builders, BP, the DIY Network, and Sprint Nextel. During the competition, scores and standings will be posted daily. Until then, you can keep track of the Solar Village's progress through the daily journal of DOE's Richard King, posted on the Solar Decathlon Web site.