Sunny Day Fries Solar Decathlon in the Capital

It is a glorious sunny day in the capital. I am not sure if the heat is due to global warming or just because it is an unseasonably warm day. I rode my bicycle down to the National Mall. It was not an easy ride, even though our office is relatively close to the Mall. I rode past the White House, cordoned off by ultra-heavy security as Barack Obama was announced early today as the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize recipient in part, because “the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting.” I am not sure if that means that by the end of his second term we will see fewer warm days in October, but while these warm October days last, they are a perfect time to generate electricity on the National Mall in the Solar Decathlon.solardecath-300x225.jpg

In my view, the day belonged not to Barack Obama, but to the visionary and energetic students on the National Mall who came to participate in the Solar Decathlon. They came from not only the US, but also from Canada, Germany and Spain to showcase their solar homes. There were lines at every house and some of the lines were not short—some people waited for as long as 30 minutes to get into some of these solar homes.

 Make no mistake about it: these are functioning houses with all the accoutrements of civilization. They are move-in ready. They are on the smallish side for Americans: no more than 800 square feet, but they are equipped with everything you could possibly need–and all powered by solar panels and collectors. What impressed me the most was that the homes do not demonstrate any futuristic technology. They all are built with existing technology that you or I could use. The teams simply put these components together in an aesthetically pleasing and efficient way.

 Some of the entrants tried to maks the solar panels and collectors, and others tried to integrate the solar panels and collectors. The object was not to put together the biggest solar array, although the Spanish entry boasts a 14.9 kW system.  That is not a misprint. I think that the German entry, which is considered one of the favorites, comes in at 11.1 kW. What was impressive was how some of the teams melded the technology with the architecture, and how they melded the architecture with the environment in which they lived. The Alberta home looks like it belongs in, well, Alberta.

Congratulations to all of the teams and thank you for participating in this noble endeavor. We hope that you will attend our reception and opening on Monday.