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The Solar Decathlon is a biennial competition hosted by the US Department of Energy that challenges college students from around the world to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and visually appealing. The homes are then put on display for two fun filled weekends and toured by the general public. Each team gives guided tours of the homes and answer questions about everything from materials used to installation, efficiency and energy savings tips. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

This year we are excited to sponsor three projects at the Solar Decathlon in Irvine, California: Solar Cal Poly, West Virginia University, and Sacramento State’s Team Solar NEST. The competition is currently underway and awards will be presented next Saturday, October 17th. Stay tuned for photos and videos!

We just received this update from Mikael Anderson, reporting from Sacramento States’s Team Solar NEST. The team has been working around the clock to build their project called “Reflect Home”.

GREAT NEWS!!!  We have successfully transported our Reflect Home to Irvine and completed the re-assembly on-site just in time for the competition.  It’s been a grueling two weeks, working 7am-2am daily with a skeleton crew of 3 faculty and 5-8 students.  There’s a lot of comradery in our students, who took unpaid time off from work and time away from school to get us to the finish line.  The home is an amazing design, even standalone on a permanent property somewhere.  Add to this that we built it in 6 sections, shipped it 450 miles without incident, and got it reassembled, decks built, exterior framed, interior finishes, and fully functional in 10 days…great team, very hard working group.

image1The results are overwhelmingly and you must be here to truly appreciate this project, as we have the largest and most architecturally pleasing home at the Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 (I may be biased).  Between interior and exterior space, we have over 1600 SF on a single story.  The planning from design, to construction, to transport, and to assembly has paid off.  We were allocated 10 days to reassemble and pass current building code inspections.  With 6 individual modules for the home, we were very happy with the results in terms on all systems functioning flawlessly.  See attached photos of our home at the competition site.

The DOE set up a micro power grid at the solar village, of which we are tied into for the competition.  We were fortunate to have the Sacramento affiliates of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), and Schetter Electric on site with three electricians for five very long 20-hr days to get our electrical, grid tie-in, and solar PV panels online.  This donation of labor, materials and expertise is on top of IBEW/NECA and Schetter already being a top tier sponsor.  So far, we have been net positive on our home since tie-in last weekend…all systems are good.

image2Final inspection passed at 8am yesterday morning, followed by opening ceremonies at 9:30am, ribbon cutting at 10:30am, and a special visit by the DOE head Secretary of Energy Dr Ernest Moniz.  The Secretary visited only 3 homes (of the remaining 14), and he chose ours as his first visit (favorite?).  We have been showered with compliments on our home for the past week, such as “this is the home I could see my family living in” and “this home has a very open and inviting design” and “the finishes and contrasting colors make this home very marketable.”  Competition contests (10 categories) began tonight and continue through Oct 16.  We disassemble and transport back to Sac State the week of Oct 18.

The atmosphere amongst competing teams is very welcoming.  The various teams can appreciate the journey to get to this final stage.  With 6 of the original 20 schools dropping out, we are among truly great schools.  Our neighbors from the Texas/Germany team were very gracious throughout the build weeks, often sending us their people to assist our skeleton crew.  They were fortunate enough to have two shifts of crews working each day, and they passed that fortune off to us.

Team Solar NEST’s Mission
Sacramento State’s Team Solar NEST strives to discover the future of sustainable, energy-efficient housing and deliver these innovations to home buyers at an affordable price.  To make strategic improvements to conventional building methods with regard to aesthetics, performance, and affordability.  Through our efforts, we aspire to redefine the possible by building tomorrow one home at a time. Our Reflect Home is the embodiment of those ideas and the essence of what we hope to accomplish.

For those wanting to stop by for a visit at the Irvine, CA competition site, here’s more info on the competition schedule:
Public Tours are open Thurs-Sun from  11am-7pm (Oct 8-11 and Oct 15-18)
Oct 16, 7:30pm-11pm:  Team Open House (all sponsors are invited, contact me to RSVP)
Oct 17, 10am: Awards Ceremony (public tours 11am-7pm).  Team special event after 7:30pm, sponsors welcome (TBD – details not available to us at this time)
Oct 18, 11am-7pm last public tours.  Disassembly begins at 7pm (5 days).

Visit the Solar Decathlon website for more info.

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