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Virgina Tech Takes Solar Decathlon Europe

Virginia Tech has won the 2010 Solar Decathlon Europe which pits college students against each other in designing, building and operating solar powered homes.

The students had to assemble their home in Madrid, Spain for this year’s 10-day competition. The homes must be cost effective and produce more energy than they consume. They must also appeal to consumers. The contest challenged university students to assemble homes that were also attractive.

The Madrid competition was based on the biannual competitions held in the United States.

For the Spanish contest, students from seven different countries had to put together their prefabricated homes and showcase them.

The LUMENHAUS, Virginia Tech’s 800-square foot home won the competition by one point. The runner up was the IKAROS house designed and built by students at the University of Applied Sciences of Germany.

Although the LUMENHAUS scored higher in the architecture category, the IKAROS garnered higher marks for its solar system.

Along with Virginia Tech, another U.S. team participated in the competition. The University of Florida built the RE-FOCUS project and took home an eighth place honor.

The LUMENHAUS only finished 13th in the U.S. Solar Decathlon last year but since improved its design. It was inspired by architect Mies Van Der Rohe’s Farnsworth House which has open flowing spaces and all glass for its north and south facing walls.

The glass windows will automatically tint if the sun is too strong to reduce heating and cooling needs.

The house has movable screens that can be open to double the floor space. In addition, the dining room table can be wheeled outside and the kitchen counter can be used as an entertainment bar.

An iPhone application allows monitoring of the home’s systems. The house can also be either connected or stacked with others to expand its size. The solar power for this house comes for 45 solar panels that are double sided. They can absorb sunlight from both sides of the panel and generates more than 30 percent more electricity than a one sided panel.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon kicked off in 2002 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It is held biannually.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, their Solar Decathlon involves 20 college teams who build solar powered homes that are “cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive.”

The winning team will blend “affordability, consumer appeal and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.”

The winning house, which is powered solely by the sun. According to the DOE Solar Decathlon, it must be:

– Affordable, attractive and easy to live in.

– maintains comfortable and healthy indoor environmental conditions

– Supplies energy to household appliances for cooking, cleaning and entertainment

– provides adequate hot water

– produces as much or more energy than it consumes.

In May, the National Building Museum gave the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon a 2010 Honor Award. This honor recognizes both organizations and individuals who have contributed to the country’s building history with unique social and civic innovations.

Frank Yocanis has been writing about solar energy for more than a decade. He is an expert on how solar power will enhance our world and our lives.

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