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Old October 18th, 2007, 12:32 PM   #1
hkskyline
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Sun-Powered Homes

Students bask in sun-powered homes contest

WASHINGTON, Oct 5, 2007 (AFP) - American, Canadian and European university students battle for architectural and engineering supremacy in Washington this month in a contest of homes whose lights, refrigerators and televisions must be powered by solar energy.

Twenty teams will show off their futuristic creations at the third edition of "Solar Decathlon 2007" between October 12-20 in the US capital's vast Mall esplanade, and 125,000 people are expected to visit the homes.

Construction and engineering experts will judge the homes using 10 criteria including architecture, engineering, market viability, interior comfort and whether the sun actually powers appliances and produces hot water.

The solar power going through the homes must also be able to charge an electric car.

The Energy Department says it organizes the contest to encourage students to pursue science and engineering careers, raise awareness about renewable energy and "help move solar energy technologies to the marketplace faster."

The young homebuilders, most of them 20-23 years old, watched gingerly as cranes deposited their creations on the Mall more than a week ahead of the competition.

The architecture, engineering, mechanics and electricity students come from German, Spanish, Canadian and American universities.

"They have to design, build, operate the most liveable, energy efficient, completely solar-powered house," Energy Department spokesman Chris Powers told AFP.

The department gave each team 100,000 dollars, which Powers admitted is not enough to build a house but helps the contestants get their projects started. It is up to the students to find sponsors to pay for the construction.

The winner's prize: "nothing but prestige," said Powers.

Most teams, consisting of 20 to 40 students, began their projects two years ago.

Students of Germany's Darmstadt University of Technology built a 38-tonne house made entirely of glass. They began designing it in May 2006 and started construction a year later.

After a tricky ocean voyage from Germany to Baltimore, a port city north of Washington, the house made it to the Mall.

"Now it's there, perfectly on time," said Darmstadt student Christian Stumpf.

Nearby, University of Texas students don hardhats in the shape of cowboy hats. Their house features an orange bowl-shaped, solar-heated hot tub.

"The plus of our house is the fun of it," boasted Texas student Sutton Giese.

Sixteen US universities are participating in the contest, including the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Penn State and the winner of the 2002 and 2005 Solar Decathlon, the University of Colorado.

In addition to Darmstad, Europe is represented by Polytechnic University of Madrid. Canada features Team Montreal, which includes McGill University, University of Montreal and Ecole de Technologie Superieure.

This year, Powers said, "We have to hope for the sun. Last time it rained the entire time of the contest."
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Old October 22nd, 2007, 09:23 AM   #2
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Energy-conscious crowds line up for solar home competition in Washington park
22 October 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) - Solar power, still a tiny fraction of the energy used today, may be heading closer to the mainstream, if a display over the past week is any indication.

Twenty universities assembled solar homes in the National Mall, a park in the shadow of the Washington Monument, and they became a weeklong magnet for people wanting to see what these technology-filled homes were all about. To many visitors, they no longer looked like oddball experiments, but dwellings that had the look and feel -- although smaller -- of houses in suburbia.

Even storm clouds and drizzle did not keep the curious from standing in long lines one afternoon to look at the one-bedroom homes that had been assembled by students from 16 states, Puerto Rico and three foreign countries.

As the rain fell, batteries hidden beneath attached decks and porches provided the juice from energy that had been absorbed on sunny days.

Judges ranked each of the houses on 10 criteria, from architecture to market viability to engineering to livability. They required students to wash clothes, prepare meals, run a television, maintain comfortable temperatures and even use excess power to drive a plug-in electric car -- and finish the week having used no more electricity than the sun provided.

A team of students from Germany's Technische Universitat Darmstadt won the weeklong competition as judges concluded their box-like dwelling was the most efficient, well-designed and well-engineered home in the competition. It featured three walls of solar cell-imbedded louvers that were adjusted automatically by a computer to best take advantage of the sun.

The German design "pushed the envelop on all levels," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said in announcing the winner Friday, calling it "the house people have been lining up all week to watch."

A team from the University of Maryland finished second. Visitors touring their house were attracted by an indoor waterfall that provided a novel way to use a liquid desiccant to soak up humidity so less energy was needed for cooling.

"The concept is sound," said Brian Borak, 25, a chemistry major, adding that it has been used in industrial applications, but never in a residential situation. The university is thinking of filing a patent.

Renewable energy sources -- mostly wind turbines -- account for a little more than 2 percent of electricity production. A very small percentage comes from solar, or photovoltaic, cells such as those used in the houses on the Mall, according the Energy Department.

But in the two years since the last Solar Decathlon, the competing house designs have become more mainstream, according to judges and participants. For the first time a category of "market appeal" was added to the criteria on which teams were judged. While the prototype homes were said to cost $500,000 (euro350,000) or more to design, ship and erect, they also contained many features that are commercially available, according to competition organizers.

"In 2005 (the houses) were experiments. This year they're not. ... They're an example of what can be done," said Bob Burt, a building consultant who was one of the judges ranking the homes on market appeal. "There are a couple of houses that when I first walked in I said, 'Yeah, I could live here.'"

The winning German entry was cited not only for its solar technology and energy saving, but for its efficient use of space and multifunction design. Its solar cell-imbedded louvers were a source of both shade and energy. The furniture was made so it could be lowered and hidden beneath the floor when not in use to make rooms multifunctional.

The large crowds and high level of interest surprised many of the students. "We're also surprised that they like our strange ideas," said Andreas Pilot, 28, an architect student and member of the German team.
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Old October 23rd, 2007, 07:51 PM   #3
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University of Maryland team saluted for solar house design
22 October 2007

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) - A team from the University of Maryland has won an award for its solar-powered house.

The team received the BP Solar People's Choice Award in the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon. The team's LEAFHouse is powered entirely by the sun and features a waterfall inside to help cool the air.

The award was presented Saturday, one day after the team captured second place in the decathlon's international competition. The Maryland team placed just behind a team from Darmstadt, Germany.

The team was made up of architecture and engineering students and placed ahead of all other U.S. teams.

------

Information from: The Washington Post

Website with more photos : http://solarteam.org/

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Old October 24th, 2007, 08:30 PM   #4
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cool stuff!!!
there is a slight possibility that in the near future i will solar panel my house.
just depends on finances, but it might work out.
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