Three members of the Coalition's Steering Committee spent a day at the Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon last weekend. Patience Wait, John Christensen and I joined a big group of folks for a bus trip to the event sponsored by Coalition partner Mountain View Solar & Wind.
According to the Solar Decathlon website:
"The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency."
The projects are constructed at the schools over the course of the year, and then transported to West Potomac Park on the National Mall for the week-long competition. This year's competition features 19 different homes, which are all open for tours. The students who built the projects are on hand to explain and answer questions. And there's lots of interesting and exciting technology on display. If you think solar is too expensive, or inconvenient, or complicated, you need to go take a look!
The event is free... just get yourself there. One tip -- bring your own lunch. West Potomac Park is in the middle of nowhere (or as close as you can get to nowhere within DC) and the DOE-contracted food concessions left a little to be desired. How bad can it be? Well, on Saturday, they ran out of food before they ran out of hungry people!
The event got pretty crowded by Saturday afternoon, making the lines to get into the exhibits around 30 minutes long. A full day only allowed me to see 10 out of 19 homes, so allow plenty of time. My favorite house was Perdue University's INHome. What appealed to me was the complete normalcy of it. It was a home you could actually picture yourself living in. Pure practicality. That's not to say the others weren't interesting (especially New Zealand's First Light), but more in a vacation home, kinda cool but I couldn't permanently live in a house with a fold out bed, kind of way. I think the weirdest house was California's CHIP, although I didn't have time to tour that one. If you attend, and even if you don't, be sure to vote for your favorite house on the Solar Decathlon's website (psst... Perdue!)
I think the most disappointing thing at the event (yes, even worse than the non-existent lunch) was the Department of Energy's display. It wasn't a home, just an information tent, without much useful information at all. I saw this as soon as I stepped into the tent. Who can tell me what's wrong with this picture?