College teams from across the country are hitting the road to Irvine, California, where a Solar Village made of 16 student-designed/built solar homes will emerge in this 2015 rendition of the Solar Decathlon. The village will be open for tours October 8-11, and 15-18th, 11am-7pm each day. While all the homes are 100% solar powered, they all look different, with lots of creativity involved. US Dept of Energy has hosted the biannual event since 2002, with Solar Decathlon events now in Europe, Asia, and South America.
Ever since the 2005 event held in Washington DC, when we produced a documentary book and DVD, we’ve been addicted to this ‘competition’ [really, everyone is a winner that participates in this event].
We even made a detour on our family vacation to tour the European edition at Versailles near Paris in 2014. At the 2013 event, we interviewed students from many of the homes, and produced a series of short video episodes (posted at watttrekker.org) highlighting the various roles (skills) involved in designing and building a sustainable solar home. The Solar Decathlon homes provide an inspiration for K12 students studying solar energy and provide a reference for their own model solar home projects. Past SD projects are posted on the Solar Decathlon website.
This year several California schools are first time participants. Sacramento State, UC Davis, Team Orange County (UC Irvine/ChapmanUniversity/Irvine Valley College/Saddleback College will all be there, sharing their own unique designs. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, who participated in 2005, will bring fresh ideas to the village.
If you can, plan on checking it out in person. Give yourself 2 days if possible. Lots to see. The students are very knowledgeable and excited to share their homes with you. If travel to Irvine is not an option, plan on checking Richard King’s blog posts as the competition gets going on the 8th. I’ll be visiting on Oct 15-16th.
If you’re a K12 teacher, our ‘Your Solar Home‘ curriculum (student guidebook + DVD) are excellent ways to bring this subject into your classroom. During the event, you can also consider reaching out to one or more of the teams via email & social media. Or even better, engaging your classrom in the “I Won a Solar Home” activity, where your students explore the various designs online, noting which features appeal to them, and ultimately picking a house that they would want to live in. While the homes all have solar design features, and are solar powered, each one incorporates different design strategies and aesthetics, that appeal to each individual differently.
We’re also working on using Sketchup to do simple energy analysis of solar decathlon models, as part of k12 classroom activities, and will share this in a future post.