A contest sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy is a powerful way to demonstrate the benefit to society of solar energy, as the Solar Decathlon 2009 proved last week with teams from around the world competing in Washington, D.C.
The teams built their solar-powered homes on the National Mall, using the best technology and designs, energy efficient materials and sustainable building practices. The top prize for the decathlon went to the team from Germany, which built a black cube-like house covered din solar panels for maximum surplus energy.
Team Germany applied photovoltaics to every available surface, easily winning the Net Metering contest and performed well in several others, including competitions in lighting design, comfort and producing hot water.
According to press reports, the German team’s house had the potential for generation as high as 11,000 watts. The solar cells powered all the electricity, including for hot water, with enough left over to give energy away.
Competitors from the United States took the second and third place prizes in the overall decathlon, but showed the most excellence in separate categories. The team from the University of Minnesota grabbed the award for best lighting design, using less than 500 watts to power all the interior and exterior lighting.
The University of Minnesota’s ICON Solar House earned praise for its use of natural lighting and the appearance of the cube-like building with its glowing night-time appearance and pleasing use of daylight.
Using advanced technology, the glass can be set to tint to reduce glare during the daytime, while retaining the view of outdoors. Large south-facing windows are turned to the angle to maximize light form the sun as it moves across the sky.
After proving that energy efficient homes can be built in just one week’s time, the various teams began tearing down their homes as soon as the competition ended.