California Students Tackle Solar Challenges

April 3, 2009
SANTA CLARA, Calif.-Two California institutions of higher education are teaming up for entry in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2009 Solar Decathlon.

The biennial competition draws together entries from college students from around the globe. This year, it will be held in Washington on Oct. 8-16.

The challenge is to design and build a house entirely powered by solar energy. There are 20 university teams participating. They are located in North America, Europe and the Caribbean. Each has received $100,000 to design, build and operate the most energy-efficient, attractive and comfortable solar-powered house.

For this competition, Santa Clara University has joined with the California College of the Arts to create Team California. The Team has chosen not to create a box-shaped building of a typical home. The shape was one used by all of the entrants in the last competition.

This time, the student designers of Team California have created a tubular house in the shape of the letter “C,” claiming that the strategically placed windows around the building take advantage of the 300 days of sunshine the San Francisco Bay area receives each year. The most important features of the house are the innovative energy systems, such as photovoltaic array, high-efficiency inverters and thermal efficiencies.

Santa Clara University’s collaboration with California College of Arts addresses the problem SCU faced in the last competition. It was the smallest university and the only one without an architecture school to compete in the 2007 Solar Decathlon. But the University surprised the world when it won third place, beating out top universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University and two-time winner University of Colorado at Boulder.