Solar Decathlon 2009 Update: The Houses Leave Home

| 10/1/2009 9:00:40 AM

Tags: Solar Decathlon, renewable energy, solar-powered homes,

In the process of making connections with students and faculty involved in this year’s Solar Decathlon, I’ve become acquainted with several notably intelligent people, many of whom are younger than I. They answer my questions with enthusiastic forecasts, not just for their own success in the upcoming competition, but for a future that will benefit from what they have learned, whether or not they win a trophy.

But that enthusiasm has a slight blur around the edges. Sleep deprivation. Assembly starts at midnight, tonight. And it’s probably safe to assume that shops in D.C. providing caffeine in any form will be doing well for the next three weeks. While students, advisors and volunteers are gearing up for the clock to strike 12, we’ll take a look at what they’ve gone through the past few days, just to make it all possible.

For many of the solar-powered houses entered in this year’s competition, the journey from home to the National Mall is not a short one. It’s a complex process requiring students and advisors to disassemble the fruit of two years’ labor, load it onto trucks, and send it down the road, just hoping it will arrive in D.C. in one piece.

Chris Werner, team leader for Cornell University’s Solar Decathlon team describes the process of preparing the Silo House for departure on Sept. 28.

“Every door must be secured,” Werner says. “Every tank must be drained.  Ducts are demounted for travel.  PV's, evacuated tubes, and structural steel are demounted and packaged.  All windows and openings will be covered with travel-grade shrink wrap.  Most appliances will be removed.  Every item that could potentially shift, fall, or break will be wrapped and secured in place.”

Not only can the houses be damaged in transit, the trucks tend to experience problems on the highway.

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