2011 preview solar decathlon
enough electricity to power an electric vehicle,
with some decathlete teams driving 200 to 300
miles over five days.
For our fourth competition in 2009, we eliminated the Transportation contest and added a Net
Metering contest in its place. Instead of receiving
100 points for driving the most miles, teams could
receive up to 50 points for sending the most surplus electricity back to the utility grid.
The rules continued to drive teams to create
more efficient houses that could produce more
energy. After four iterations, or four research
and development cycles, the best houses were
producing upward of 80 kilowatt-hours (k Wh)
in one day. That’s a lot of power from a single
house. The 6-k W photovoltaic system on my
home produces about 20 k Wh on average, and at
most 35 k Wh on a full sunny day. That’s all I need
to maintain zero-net energy in my 2,500-square-
foot house. So in most cases, 80 k Wh is enough
for two houses, or certainly a life of plenty.
In the 2009 competition, the top teams in the
Net Metering contest — Technische Universität
Darmstadt and the University of Illinois — became
the top overall finishers. They succeeded in producing the most surplus electricity by entirely covering
one house in solar cells and by super-insulating the
by the Numbers
307,500 number of house visits logged
during the 2009 public exhibit
2013 The year in which the first Solar
Decathlon China will take place
525 Days between the official 2011
team selection and the start of
72 number of houses that have
competed in the Solar
Decathlon from 2002–2009
55 Videos on the Solar Decathlon
You Tube channel
10 number of days the solar village
will be open to the public
4 number of continents
represented by the 2011 teams
1 Team to be named the Solar
Decathlon 2011 champion
The 2009 engineering contest award-winning house from the University of Minnesota uses two types of
solar collectors — traditional roof-mounted panels along with translucent bifacial PV panels that generate
power on both sides.
JIM TE Tro/U. S. DoE SoLAr DECATHLon
other. Both approaches are fairly expensive for most
homeowners, but both represented smart strategy
and good building science.
The winning houses in the last couple of competitions were some of the most expensive. It is
time to see what can be done when lower costs are
a driving force. The new Affordability contest challenges teams to design and build a solar-powered
house that costs less than $250,000. Teams that
succeed receive the maximum 100 points. Houses
that cost more than $250,000 will lose points.
This change should make the houses more
cost-effective and bring parity to the competi-
tion. Now that the mantra is doing more with
less, it will be interesting to see what technolo-
gies make the grade.
Aerial view of the 2009 solar village, with the competition house from third-place winner Team California
(Santa Clara University and California College of the Arts) in the foreground.