Winners All Around

Winners All Around

I can’t resist one last update on the Solar Decathlon. Last week Team California took third place in the Solar Decathlon, a huge win, considering their size vs. some of the other schools. The Santa Clara University students should be proud of their results, especially in architecture, where they had set a specific goal to improve. But since we’re a global company I’ll also rejoice in the first place victory by the team from Darmstadt, Germany, which isn’t too far from our solar operations in Alzenau, who won in part based on their superior ability to generate solar power on rainy days.

There are some lessons to be learned from the decathlon. First, solar is ready today and can be a simple solution to our power needs. A micro-grid is feasible — all of the houses were connected in just a few days and immediately started generating power. Rain or shine they generated power, even excess power. Imagine several solar arrays powering your city. Then imagine how long it would take to install a coal plant and what that would look like on the National Mall.

The second lesson, if you hand students a challenge, they will rise to it and above. We need to do more of this, creating the “problem” for students, handing them some tools and coaching and letting their creativity run wild. That’s what America was built on. And we should start long before college, getting students of all ages excited about the sciences and engineering.

As a perpetual home remodeler and garage tinkerer, I found it both fun and educational to look at the products used in the construction of these houses. There are products that can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in energy costs over time and for the most part they are readily available. (I know some students who can even show you how to install them correctly.)

And finally we should all take note that the goal of the project, to create an aesthetically pleasing house that produces as much power as it consumes is clearly reachable. I hope some of their solutions come to my neighborhood soon.

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