Solar Decathlon moves to Irvine, CA for 2013

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Solar Decathlon moves to Irvine, CA for 2013Everyone’s got to leave home at some point. And apparently its time for the U.S. Solar Decathlon to make its first move from its home in Washington, D.C.

Last week, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that the international event, which challenges 20 university teams from around the world to build a solar-powered home and compete in 10 events, will take place at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif., in 2013.

Since the first event in 2002 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., it has been held in the nation’s capital. And it has spawned sister events in Europe and China.

But the National Park Service deemed the impact of the popular and growing U.S. event was too great for the park in 2011, forcing the DOE to look for other locations. Ultimately the event was held on a more remote part of the park in 2011, but to accommodate its growing pains, the event had to find a new staging ground for 2013.

“Similar to past Solar Decathlons held in Washington D.C., the 2013 competition will host 20 teams with projects representing a diverse range of design approaches, building technologies, geographic locations, climates and regions, including urban, suburban, and rural settings,” said Solar Decathlon and DOE spokesperson Chris Kielich.

The new location is on former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, which Irvine is turning into sustainable parkland, according to the DOE.

The teams will build their homes on the runway, which will make it easier for teams to set up their homes and won’t damage the land—as the competition had done to the National Mall, since the homes were built on grassy land.

“The Orange County Great Park, located between Los Angeles and San Diego, is a dynamic venue that can accommodate the 20 competition houses and the special needs of the Solar Decathlon event—featuring flexible space, ample visitor parking, existing facilities for large special events, and nearby services for visitors,” Kielich said. “With direct freeway and rail access and generally favorable weather conditions, the Park will also ensure that millions of residents across Southern California have an opportunity to experience the Solar Decathlon.”

The DOE reviewed twice as many proposals as it could accept for the 2013 event.

While none of the 2011 winners—University of Maryland, Purdue University, or Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand—submitted an entry for 2013, nine other previous competitors will return. Those include teams from Hampton University and Old Dominion University of Virginia, Middlebury College of Vermont, the Missouri University of Science and Technology, Santa Clara University of California and its partners, Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology, Stevens Institute of Technology of New Jersey and its partners, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the University of Calgary of Alberta Canada, and the University of Louisville, Ball State University and University of Kentucky.

The event also will host other international teams, including the Vienna University of Technology of Austria, Czech Technical University of Prague, Czech Republic, and Queens University, Carleton University, and Algonquin College of Ontario, Canada.

At this point, the DOE is focused on Solar Decathlon 2013 and has not announced whether future events will return to Washington, stay in Irvine or become a traveling event.