- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
The National Mall of Washington, D.C., was recently host to teams from 20 universities from around the world, who showed up to demonstrate the effectiveness of harnessing solar power to supply the needs of a single building. A German school’s winning design, “pushed the envelope on all levels,” said Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, calling it “the house people have been lining up all week to watch.”
Judges ranked each of the houses on 10 criteria, from architecture to market viability to engineering to livability. They required students to wash clothes, prepare meals, run a television, maintain comfortable temperatures and even use excess power to drive a plug-in electric car – and finish the week having used no more electricity than the sun provided.
A team of students from Germany’s Technische Universitat Darmstadt won the overall competition with the University of Maryland finished second and Santa Clara University in California was third.
Solar power provides a fraction of the energy used in the United States today. Some communities (e.g. Sacramento, visit www.smud.org) have erected solar farms to augment their power generating capabilities. Communities also have offered incentives to business and residents to add solar energy panels to their properties. The two biggest barriers to widespread use of solar power are the ability to store energy and enough area to collect the sunlight. Competitions around the world such as one recently held in the shadow of the Washington Monument may provide answers to these and other hurdles.