Solar Energy Washington DC
Solar homes showed a lot of promise during the 1970s, when energy prices skyrocketed and people were scrambling to find more efficient and effective ways to heat and power their homes. But when those prices leveled off and even went down, we as a country forgot a lot of the lessons solar technology taught us.
Perhaps now things are beginning to swing back the other way. As evidence, check out the recent Solar Decathlon sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and held in Washington. There student architects and engineers from 14 universities competed with each other to build homes that were not only energy efficient, but also aesthetically pleasing and feasible under real-world conditions. Each house was limited to 500 square feet for competition purposes, and to allow them all to fit on the grounds of the National Mall.
The University of Colorado won with a bungalow-style home that uses up to 85 percent less energy than a conventional home of the same size. The home's design was based on three modules (basic, spec and core) which can be combined in different ways to accommodate varying budgets, climates and building sites without sacrificing visual appeal. The idea is to make this process readily available and repeatable for production purposes. Each house was judged on 10 criteria to determine which most efficiently employed solar energy for heating, cooling, hot water, lights, appliances and even charging an electric car. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham says, "This contest proves that solar energy is practical today.
It is affordable, livable and attractive." For more information on the contest, floor plans and photos of all entrants, visit www.eren.doe.gov/solar_decathalon.