If you ever step back and calculate the amount of energy your home uses, the number might surprise you. This year’s U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon aims to teach us how much energy is used in the home and how solar energy can be used in place of typical energy sources. This October, seventeen teams met in Irvine, California to complete their design of the perfect solar-powered home. Each team was tasked with creating a home that is affordable, has consumer appeal, and uses energy efficiently. The event is titled a decathlon because each team must earn top scores in ten different competitions. Of the ten contests, five are juried contests where a panel of qualified professional judges determine the final score and five are solely measured on metrics.
The five juried contests include architectural design, market appeal, engineering design, communications, and affordability. For the communications contest, the candidates are judged on the quality and creativity of their outreach documentation that will be used to teach others about energy efficiency in the home. The five metric based contests include comfort, appliances, home life, commuting, and energy balance. Even outside energy consuming tasks are not left out of this competition as seen in the commuting competition, a contest in which teams are challenged to charge an electric vehicle and make several driving runs, all powered by their home solar grid.
Looking through this year’s competitors, the amount of innovation that has been put into designing a fully solar-powered home is astounding. The homes are sleek and professional but also use 100% solar energy. The future of solar energy is bright and hopefully we will see some of these new solar home designs make their way to San Francisco!