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German university wins solar competition

A student team from Darmstadt, Germany, has designed, built and operated the most attractive and efficient solar powered home in an international solar competition.

Team Germany won the 2009 Department of Energy (DoE) Solar Decathlon competition, beating the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Team California in the top three. The winners were announced by Daniel Poneman, Deputy Secretary at DoE, on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Over two weeks, the 2009 Solar Decathlon challenged 20 university teams from the USA, Spain, Canada and Germany, to compete in 10 contests, ranging from subjective elements of architecture, market viability, communications, lighting design and engineering, to technical measurements of how well the homes provided energy for space heating and cooling, hot water, home entertainment, appliances, and net metering. The prototype home designs were open to the public in the final days.

“This competition to build zero carbon homes has been a tremendous undertaking and we have seen terrific efforts by all the teams," says Poneman. "The ingenuity that comes from individual effort is the promise of our future."

Team Germany's winning ‘Cube House’ design produced a surplus of power even during three days of rain. This is the team's second Solar Decathlon victory, after winning the previous competition in 2007.

New to the 2009 solar competition was the net metering contest, which was worth 150 points toward the final results and was the most heavily weighted contest. It challenged teams to generate surplus energy to feed into the power grid.

Germany earned 908 points out of a possible 1000 to win the competition. Illinois scored 897 and California scored 863 points. Team Ontario/BC from Canada ranked in fourth place with 850, Minnesota 839, Team Alberta 769, Cornell 764, Rice 750, Kentucky 732, Ohio State 730, Team Missouri 720, Iowa State 715, Virginia Tech 705, Team Spain 670, Team Boston 666, Penn State 626, Puerto Rico 618, Arizona 610, Louisiana 604 and WI-Milwaukee 542 points.

The German house was covered with 11.1 kW of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells made of 40 single-crystal silicon panels on the roof and 250 thin-film copper indium gallium diselenide panels on the sides which generated 200% of the energy needed by the building. The façade's vacuum insulation panels and phase-change material in the drywall maintained comfortable temperatures while automated louver-covered windows blocked unwanted solar heat.

The Solar Decathlon joins 20 college and university teams in a competition to design, build and operate the most attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered house. It is an educational project of the US Department of Energy. During the last Solar Decathlon in October 2007, 120,000 visitors came to the National Mall to view the houses.

Each team received US$100,000 from DoE to design, build and operate their home and the Decathlon ranks in 10 specific areas of competition: architecture, engineering, market viability, communications, comfort, appliances, hot water, lighting, energy balance, and transportation.

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Green building  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Solar electricity  •  Solar heating and cooling