Yesterday I woke up bright and early (6 am!) and made the trek down to Washington D.C.’s West Potomac Park, the kind-of-new
home to the Depart of Energy
’s biennial collegiate solar home building showdown, the Solar Decathlon
. Although the ribbon cutting ceremony was this morning and the solar village
doesn’t open to the public until tomorrow, yesterday marked the first time the 19 participating teams opened the doors of their homes for media tours (and for other teams to check out).
Even though I’ve become quite familiar
with many of the 2011 Solar Decathlon entrants over the past couple of months, it was quite the treat to get an up-close and (crowd-free) look at the homes and actually talk to the international roster of teams
that have invested so much time and energy into their stunning solar-powered creations. The team members I spoke with were enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and fired-up for the big competition
to commence (best answer of the day: I asked a member of Team New Zealand
if he was homesick yet and he responded, “Well, we’ve been so busy we haven’t had the chance.”)
Starting this Saturday and lasting throughout the week, the teams will be competing in 10 different measured and juried contests
(architecture, market appeal, engineering, communications, appliances, hot water, comfort zone, home entertainment, energy balance, and, new this year, affordability) worth 100 points each that are designed to gauge how affordable, livable, and energy efficient each home is. The team that comes the closest to the magic number of 1,000 is named the big winner. Although I was on the lookout for potenial frontrunners in each of the official contests, I also had my eyes peeled for other standout, slightly irrelevant features like, umm, bedspreads and team outfits.
Below you’ll find a few very special, totally unofficial honors that I've bestowed to a handful of Solar Decathlon homes. Due to time constraints and the fact that a few of the homes weren’t quite ready to receive visitors (without hardhats, anyway), I didn’t get a chance to step inside of every single one but came pretty close.
Best of luck to all of the 2011 Solar Decathlon teams!