Solar Decathlon's new home allows for event expansion

Indiana, Kentucky renderingIts first year on the road, the Solar Decathlon is expected to be bigger and better than ever.

After a long weekend of special workshops and site visits for the more than 200 college students who will represent 20 university teams in the solar-powered home design competition, event organizers are optimistic that getting away from the home base in Washington, D.C. will be good for the Decathlon.

“The students were all really excited and passionate,” said Richard King, director of the Solar Decathlon for the U.S. Department of Energy.

That excitement isn’t really different, but the venue is. From Oct. 3 to 13, students will build 20 homes entirely powered by the sun along a mile-long landing strip at what was once a marine Air Force base, but which has become the 1,300-acre Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif.

The landing strip is about the same size and length as the National Mall in D.C., where the event has been held every other year since 2002. But the rest of the park is expansive and offers tremendous opportunity to expand the event, King said.

The landing strip where students will erect their houses is just one of four. King said he’d love to see electric vehicle test drives happening on at least one of the others.

There will also be a solar expo at the event this year where solar installers and manufacturers will be able to set up and offer information to attendees.

The students who visited California last weekend learned about all of the rules and had a chance to ask organizers important questions. They also had a chance to scope out their specific lot along the runway. There will be 10 houses on either side, King said. That means half will face north and the other half south.

“If you’re an architect, you will want to know what side of the street you’re on,” King said.

King said he expects attendance to be strong this year and the quality of the solar homes to shine.

“Each competition, the houses get better and better,” King said. “They’re really amazing. The students all learn from each other and they raise the bar every year.”

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