A look back at the Solar Decathlon 2007

So, the coolest little village this side of the Atlantic closed its doors last Friday. The Solar Decathlon ended with a German winner, the team from Technische Universitat Darmstadt.

They beat out 20 teams of architecture, engineering and business students from the United States, Canada, Germany, Puerto Rico and Spain to win the third annual event. The teams competed in ten different contests to design, build, and operate attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered homes.


Oak louvers on the Technishe Universitat Darmstadt’s solar powered home provide shading and privacy for visitors to the Solar Decathlon on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Saturday, Oct. 13.
(Credit: Jim Tetro/Solar Decathlon)

Teams were granted $100,000 each to spend over about two years to design and build an 800-square-foot home powered entirely by solar energy, with off-the-shelf solar-electric panels. The homes did not use fossil fuels and yielded no carbon emissions. Normally, they include high-tech gadgets that allow comfort and convenience without compromising respect for the environment.

On top of that, each house had to produce enough extra electricity to power an electric car.

Although it could be well said that everybody was a winner here and all the houses had interesting ideas and cool features, the three ones that came out on top were:

1st: Technische Universität Darmstadt
TUD won the Architecture, Lighting, and Engineering contests. Darmstadt was, besides, one of seven teams to score an impressive 100 points in the Energy Balance contest.

2nd: University of Maryland
Maryland won the Communications contest and was second in Architecture, Market Viability, and Lighting. They were also one of the teams to score 100 points in the Energy Balance contest.

3rd: Santa Clara University
They scored 100 points in the Hot Water contest and also 100 points in the Energy Balance contest, and besides that they built a public-friendly and entertaining house tour that was praised by the jury. Funnily enough, they almost did not make it to the competition, as they had transportation problems on the way there.

The two teams I was tracking did not do too bad. The University of Illinois elementhouse was 1st in the “Comfort zone” “Market viability” contests and ended in 9th position altogether. The Madrid team (UPM) earned third place in the architectural portion of the competition and was fifth in the final score.

The success of the Solar Decathlon is manifested in how the houses in past competitions are being used or replicated. According to the US Energy Secretary Mr. Bodman in his closing ceremony and awards remarks, the winning 2002 University of Colorado house is now the core of a bigger house owned by the former president of the Solar Energies Industries Association. The Rhode Island School of Design house from 2005 is being installed as faculty housing at a private school in Portsmouth. The previous two University of Missouri at Rolla entries are being used as student housing. And the New York Institute of Technology’s 2005 house is permanently installed at the United States Merchant Marine Academy as a renewable energy research center

In that same speech, Mr. Bodman also announced that the Department is making up to $44.1 million available to support the commercialization and promotion of solar and energy efficient technologies. Up to $4.1 million of that funding will be used to establish centers that promote these technologies to the building trades and homeowners.

Some technologies he found worth noting were:

  • The translucent roof atop the Georgia Institute of Technology’s entry that employs a new technology already in use in large scale buildings around the world
  • The structural bamboo I-beams in the Santa Clara University house
  • The liquid desiccant waterfall that removes humidity with very little energy, greatly reducing the job of the air conditioner that the University of Maryland had on display in its house.
  • You may check out a short video of each of the 20 homes at Blue Egg, an eco-lifestyle media company.


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    7 Comments on “A look back at the Solar Decathlon 2007”

    1. Wow that home is amazing! I think it looks better than most homes today and it’s completely powered by solar. Definitely something very cool and I hope to live in one someday 😀

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