doe-solar-national-mall.jpgA cluster of 20 solar-powered homes will open their doors to tourists as well as energy and design enthusiasts tomorrow in the 4th Solar Decathlon on the National Mall in Washington.

Teams of architecture and engineering students from colleges around the world are competing in the contest, sponsored by the Department of Energy as a showcase for the potential of solar energy.

Sometime today, each of the 800-square-foot buildings will be connected to a “microgrid” set up for the event, to feed excess electricity to the local power grid. In the next ten days, students will have to perform everyday tasks, such as cooking, doing the laundry, and even washing dishes, to test the energy efficiency of their homes.

Over 800 student competitors from the United States, Canada, Spain, and Germany have been busy designing and building since their teams were chosen two years ago. The homes were then packed up, transported and reassembled on the Mall between the US Capitol and the Washington Monument. Judges will grade on ten challenges including architecture, engineering, market viability, communications, comfort, appliances, water heating, lighting, and even home entertainment. A metering competition will rate the solar homes on their energy production, with a bonus for homes that produce more energy than they consume.

The overall winner will be announced on October 16.  Keep track of the competition on

(See the list of the 20 competing schools below the video.)

The homes will be open to the public from October 9-13 and 15-18. Tour on the weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. 

The following teams are competing along with last year’s winner from Germany, theTechnische Universität at Darmstadt:

-Boston Architectural College/Tufts University (Boston, MA/Medford, MA)
-Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)
-Iowa State University of Science and Technology (Ames, IA)
-Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, MO)
-Ohio State University (Columbus, OH)
-The Pennsylvania State University (University Park, PA)
-Rice University (Houston, TX)
-Santa Clara University and California College of the Arts (Santa Clara-San Francisco)
-Universidad de Puerto Rico (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
-Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (Madrid, Spain)
-University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ)
-University of Calgary/SAIT Polytechnic and Mount Royal College (Canada)
-University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Urbana, IL)
-University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY)
-University of Louisiana at Lafayette (Lafayette, LA)
-University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN)
-University of Waterloo/Ryerson University/Simon Fraser University (Canada)
-University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Milwaukee, WI)
-Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Blacksburg, VA)


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