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Solar Decathlon: A sneak peek at the houses

By: Matt Hickman on Sept. 9, 2011, 7:07 a.m.
four solar decathlon houses

Photo: DOE

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Here comes the sun

Fire up those photovoltaics, ladies and gents ... the 2011 Solar Decathlon is upon us.

Thanks in part to a thankfully-not-drastic location change, an unfortunate last-minute dropout and a freak earthquake, the road leading to this year's edition of the U.S. Department of Energy's biennial solar-powered home showdown has been somewhat dramatic. Still, the show must go on as 19 fiercely competitive collegiate coteries descend on Washington, D.C.'s West Potomac Park later this month to see which team has created the most attractive, livable, affordable and efficient solar-powered home.

Like Olympic decathlons, each hardworking team must submit their home to 10 different point-based contests — ranging from Market Appeal to Engineering to Architecture — to help determine which eco-abode will take top honors. The magic number is 1,000, with each contest worth a maximum of 100 points. (2009's top scorer was Team Germany with 908 points.)

Whether you're visiting the Solar Decathlon and touring the homes yourself (the competition kicks off Sept. 23 and runs through Oct. 2 — click here for scheduling information) or plan to follow the event from afar, take a few moments to familiarize yourself with each unique entrant. May the best solar-powered home win!