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Academic Solar Olympics

Universities battle for best solar home designs

Universities from Switzerland to West Virginia will compete in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2017 Solar Decathlon College Team Competition, set for the fall of 2017 .

Global elite athletes may today be competing in the Rio Olympics, but academic teams are laying out their plans to take top recognition in the fight for better solar back to their campuses – and $2 million in prizes money.

Northwestern University, competing in the event for the first time, will have its team coached by Dick Co, research associate professor of chemistry at the Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research Center and co-founder and managing director of the Solar Fuels Institute.

“A beautiful, thoughtfully designed, sustainable home is a very powerful image,” said Co. “The technology exists today to build a house radically more efficient than the average home, and seeing is believing.”

A total of 16 academic teams will also compete, including Rice University in Houson, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and even as far off as École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

According to DOE, the competition involves “10 contents, ranging from architecture and engineering to home appliance performance. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends esthetics and modern conveniences with maximum energy production and optimal efficiency.”

The Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern, the primary university supporter of the project at the Evanson, Ill. campus, has created a course for students to earn academic credit for their involvement in the project.

EDITOR’S NOTE: ISEN is a sponsor of the Energy Times’ executive energy conference, Empowering Customers & Cities, in Chicago November 1-2.

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