Harnessing the Sun: U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

Energy-efficient abodes designed by college students go panel-to-panel in competition.

By Alysia Gray Painter
|  Wednesday, Oct 2, 2013  |  Updated 11:17 AM PDT
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Harnessing the Sun: U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

To the sun! Or sun power, at least. College students build solar-nice houses in the O.C. during the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

"The power of the sun cannot be matched!" Dun dun dun...

Remember those films shown in classrooms back in the day, the industrial shorts that spoke in glowing terms about the future and what we would be capable of one day? We'd all live in hover homes, walk robot dogs, and the sun would power all of our electronics.

We're not there *quite* yet -- sorry, hope-filled industrial filmmakers of the 1950s -- but with the brainpower and can-do of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon collegiate competitors, we're well on our way.

The decathlon will take place in Orange County from Oct. 3 through 10 (and, nope, it will not be impacted by the government shutdown).

What's the Solar Decathlon, you say? It's where college students gather to "design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive." But it isn't just an exercise in learning about the benefits of solar-focused structures: It's a competition with 10 distinct contests, including contests that reward affordability, comfort, and market appeal.

It's a reminder to any remaining naysayers who think that energy-prudent abodes don't have to tip the big-cash, pie-in-the-sky scales.

But the best bit? The public can tour the impressive fruits' of the students efforts, and for free, too. Good thing -- you might want to stash some dough and start saving toward your own solar nest.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is on in Orange County Great Park from Oct. 3-13. Public hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Oct. 3-6 and Oct. 10-13.

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