This is a terrific event. Here is a good description shamelessly copied from the DOE Newsletter:
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Construction is underway at the Solar Decathlon, which opens to the public on October 9. Enlarge this photo.
The assembly of 20 solar homes on the
National Mall in Washington, D.C., is rapidly approaching completion,
as the 2009 Solar Decathlon prepares to open, free to the public, on
October 9th. The Solar Decathlon is an international event in which DOE
challenges university teams to design and build homes that run entirely
on solar energy. The teams ship their partially constructed homes to
the National Mall, assemble them, and then compete in ten contests.
This year, the 20 teams came from universities in Arizona, California,
Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota,
Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin,
as well as Puerto Rico, Canada, Germany, and Spain. Trucks rolled onto
the National Mall just after midnight on the morning of October 1, and
since then, the teams have been steadily working to assemble their
solar homes. See the DOE press release and the
Solar Decathon Web site.
This is the fourth running of the Solar Decathlon, and for the first
time, the competition features a stand-alone electrical microgrid to
which each team will have to connect their home. Starting on October 8,
each home will be monitored for its performance in five areas relating
to performance and livability: comfort (maintaining comfortable
temperature and humidity in the home), hot water (producing a
sufficient quantity at a high enough temperature), appliances (such as
keeping refrigerated items at the right temperature), home
entertainment (running a television, computer, lights, and other
devices), and net metering. For the net metering competition, homes
must use zero net energy over the course of a week, and teams receive a
bonus for producing more energy than their home consumes. Other
contests rate the teams for their communications with the public and
for the architecture, engineering, and market viability of their homes.
The overall winner will be announced on October 16. See the Solar
Decathlon's Contests and Scoring page.
DOE is the primary sponsor of the 2009 Solar Decathlon, which is
also sponsored and managed by DOE's National Renewable Energy
Laboratory. Homes will open to the public beginning on October 9, and
will be open for tours weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and from 10
a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, through October 18 (with the exception of
October 14). Not able to come to D.C.? You can keep up with the Solar
Decathlon online through daily journals posted by DOE's Richard King, the Solar Decathlon director; photos of the day from the event; YouTube videos; time-lapse photos from three cameras at the event; blogs
from the teams; the Solar Decathlon Facebook page (become a fan!); and even a Twitter feed!