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U. of I. students to build solar home for contest in Washington, D. C.

Sharita Forrest, News Editor


From left:  Michael T. McCulley, William C. Sullivan, David Schejbal, and Ty A. Newell
Click photo to enlarge
Photo by Clark Brooks
Leading the U. of I. design team for the 2007 Solar Decathlon are, from left, Michael T. McCulley, associate dean for undergraduate affairs in the College of Fine and Applied Arts; William C. Sullivan, director of the Environmental Council; David Schejbal, associate vice chancellor and director of the Offfice of Continuing Education; and Ty A. Newell, assistant dean of engineering.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. —– The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is one of 20 universities selected to participate in the 2007 Solar Decathlon, a competition in which teams of students from colleges and universities in the United States, Europe and Canada compete to design, build and operate homes powered exclusively by solar energy.

During the fall of 2007, the teams will transport their homes to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where the homes will be reassembled to form a solar village open to the public. The teams will compete in a weeklong series of 10 contests, in which the homes will be judged on their energy efficiency and energy production, architectural integrity, livability, aesthetic appeal and integration of photovoltaic energy systems.

Each 800-square-foot house must be self-sustaining and generate enough solar electric and solar thermal energy to light, heat and cool the house, maintaining temperatures and humidity within designated ranges; provide hot running water; operate appliances and electronics; support a home-based business and operate a street-legal, commercially available electric vehicle provided by the organizers.

Although the teams won't live in the houses, they will have to carry out typical tasks of daily living in them, such as doing dishes and cooking a meal, in order to earn points. The teams also will be judged on their documentation of their design processes and the communications they create for the public, such as Web sites and newsletters, about design, energy efficiency and solar energy.

The contests are judged by panels of jurists and judges that include professionals in architecture, construction, marketing and design. The team that scores the most points overall wins.

2007 Solar Decathlon Participants

International teams 

  • Team Montreal (representing Ecole de Technologie Superieure, Universite de Montreal and McGill University), Canada         
  • Technische Universitat Darmstadt, Germany        
  • Universidad de Puerto Rico        
  • Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, Spain

U.S. Teams

  • California Polytechnic State University        
  • Carnegie Mellon University        
  • Cornell University         
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Kansas State University        
  • Lawrence Technological University 
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • New York Institute of Technology
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Texas A&M University        
  • University of Cincinnati 
  • University of Colorado at Boulder*    
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Missouri at Rolla
  • University of Texas at Austin
*Winner of the 2002 and 2005 Solar Decathlons

“It's meant to be a display to people that being comfortable and conserving energy aren't two different things, that we can build a house that requires only 10 percent of the energy a typical house requires, build it with today's technologies and show that it saves money, ” said Ty A. Newell, assistant dean of engineering administration in the College of Engineering.  

“The exciting thing about this competition is that it brings together highly diverse groups of students and faculty and staff members on campus and includes opportunities to include schoolchildren, teachers, lawmakers and the public,” said David Schejbal, associate vice chancellor and director of the Office of Continuing Education.

The University of Colorado, Boulder, won the inaugural Solar Decathlon in 2002 and the second competition in 2005.

Organizing and leading the U. of I. team will be Schejbal; Newell; Michael T. McCulley, associate dean for undergraduate affairs, College of Fine and Applied Arts; William C. Sullivan, director of the Environmental Council and interim director of the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Program.

The Department of Energy awards each participating team $100,000 paid over two years to help fund the project, with the participants responsible for raising the remaining money needed for the project and competition. 

The decathlon is a biennial event sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and other organizations, to further research, education and public awareness about renewable energy and energy efficiency, to help reduce the cost of solar-powered homes and help move solar energy technologies into the marketplace more quickly.

For more information: Mike McCulley, 217-333-6061; Ty Newell, 217-333-1655; David Schejbal, 217-333-1462; Bill Sullivan, 217-244-5156