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Sunny California hosts Solar Decathlon

This past weekend marked the conclusion of the 2013 Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, held in Irvine, California. It was the sixth time the DOE-sponsored event has been held in the United States, but the first time outside of Washington, DC. Besides the obvious benefits of exposure to a new audience, the contest made the best of the more dependable California sunshine, although there was some rain one day, and the first weekend was a challenge with hot temperatures and 50 mph Santa Ana winds.

In any case each team was able to tally a full 100 points for the Energy Conversion part of the competition – meaning every house produced more energy than it consumed – for the first time ever.

SPIE Newsroom and SPIE.TV spent some time in Irvine and focused on the technical aspects of some of the houses. We had an expert commentator to help – Adam Plesniak of Amonix, the concentrating PV company located in nearby Seal Beach. Adam’s view, and that of many others we encountered, is that the focus is no longer about proving solar’s value but about how to efficiently integrate it into design, construction and the power grid.




Several teams incorporated innovative technologies into their houses, such as predictive shading systems, circulating water for heating and cooling, and bifacial solar collection units, gathering energy from direct sunlight on top and reflected light underneath.

SPIE student member Kimberly Hammer gave us a description (see video) of some of the technologies that went into the University of Nevada Las Vegas house, DesertSOL . Kimberley just received her master’s in mechanical engineering from UNLV, and started this fall at the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences, pursuing her PhD and studying photovoltaics. UNLV tied for third in the Engineering competition and finished second overall in the Solar Decathlon.

It’s fun and inspiring to visit these houses and feel the enthusiasm of the students who made them a reality. Over and over we heard about the challenges of people from different disciplines coming together for a project like this. In every case, it was worth the effort to overcome differences in terminology, priorities, and methods in order to produce something great. SPIE congratulates all the participants in the Solar Decathlon, and extends our appreciation to the organizers and sponsors. 

Team Austria wins 2013 Solar Decathlon (SPIE Newsroom)

Next up: the Solar Decathlon Europe, opening 27 June 2014.

Comments

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