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Solar Energy as Competitive Sport

BY Online DA  October 15, 2009 at 12:00 AM EDT

2009 solar decathalon; Photo via Flickr

The 10-day competition in Washington, D.C.,features 20 student teams from universities in the United States, Canada, Germany and Spain. The aim of the competition: to design and build attractive, energy efficient solar-powered homes.

Teams receive $100,000 in seed money from the Department of Energy, and are then judged based on how much energy their homes produce, as well on the aesthetics of their designs. Houses are limited to 800 square feet, and fully outfitted with furniture and appliances. Teams must show their homes can produce enough energy for a typical family through tasks such as running the laundry, and leaving the television on six hours each day.

This year’s winner, announced Friday, was Team Germany’s “Surplus Home,” a two-story cube-shaped dwelling featuring one large room with separate zones for eating, sleeping, and entertaining.

“The projects will help accelerate the use of solar energy by residents, businesses and communities, and promote the long-term viability of solar energy by investing in the technologies of the future,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu at the kickoff to the decathlon last week.

The contest runs through Oct.18 on the National Mall in Washington.