The Next Solar Decathlon

 2009 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Friday, Oct. 09, 2009.  (Photo by Stefano Paltera/US Dept. of Energy Solar Decathlon)

2009 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Friday, Oct. 09, 2009.  (Photo by Stefano Paltera/US Dept. of Energy Solar Decathlon)

The U.S. Department of Energy has changed its plans for the next Solar Decathlon.  Previously the event was planned for 2019 in Denver.

Instead the next iteration will occur in 2019–2020, in a new format.  It will include 3 tracks:

  • Design-only (the former Race to Zero competition)
  • Build Local (a new option)
  • Build National (similar to previous Solar Decathlons)

The Build National contest will return to its original home at the National Mall in Washington, DC; it will occur in June/July 2020.  The plan is to have a more modest Decathlon, with only 6 teams competing, after an earlier Design Challenge.  I don't like the idea of holding the contest in summer in Washington, when heating will not be needed.  As I wrote here, passive solar heating ought to be central to the challenge and to the definition of a 'solar house' and a 'net-zero' house.  

The Build Local contest will offer 6 other schools the opportunity "to build a house to meet a local need."  I interpret this to mean these structures can be permanently site-built, rather than temporary and transportable, and that students might build affordable housing in their local community.  If so, this is an excellent new direction for the Decathlon (and a suggestion I offered in 2015).

For both the Build National and Build Local programs, there will be a stage 1 Design Challenge.  Winners who advance to stage 2 (construction) will be awarded seed funds.  The purpose of this format is to "reduce university logistics burden."  As I have reported (in The Solar House, and here and here), some schools participating in previous Decathlons have found it to be a very expensive endeavor, and some have dropped out.  While it's not clear how the seed funds will compare to the total costs, it's nice to know that the Decathlon organizers are aware of the burden to schools.

More information from the Department of Energy is here.