Let the Games Begin

Let the Games Begin

Appropriately, it was a warm, sunny afternoon in Washington, D.C. as the 2009 Solar Decathlon officially kicked off yesterday with a full color guard ceremony complete with several hundred solar devotees and the Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu.

The 20 student teams were excited though a few could be found napping, finally getting a little down time after days of round-the-clock work. Everyone was voting for their People’s Choice Award — from your cell phone text code HOUSE31 to 99503 for Team California — and wandering the mall to check out the houses before the crowds arrived.

Students proudly pointed to their electric meters and how much power their panels were pushing into the grid, taking advantage of the opening ceremony to generate excess power. A German student voiced it clearly, “if this was your house and you were at work, you’d be generating electricity for someone else and (at least in Germany where they have feed-in tariffs) getting credited for the electricity.”

Secretary Chu drove home the message that solar panel prices are dropping rapidly following a path similar, but not as aggressive as Moore’s Law and how the balance of systems is now exceeding module costs. The Decathlon houses show ideas to bring that differential closer and when we can get the balance closer “solar will really take off”.

The Secretary announced $87 million in awards to fund solar research and advance the technology and deployment. He pointed to energy efficiency as being important as energy generation to the future of the United States. Encouraging the energetic and idealistic students, he stated, “Yes you are saving the planet, but you are saving your own money as well.” These wonderful homes will eventually be the cost effective model for our future homes.

Mike Splinter, Applied’s CEO, gave a shout out to Team California while also recognizing Decathlon Director Richard King for organizing the Solar Decathlon. ”Undertaking a project this complex while maintaining a complete school load takes passion. It is more than a competition; it’s a symbol of energy innovation, the promise of clean technology around the world. It is a peak through the window of what we will live in, in the next generation. A way we can make an impact on the planet if we take this seriously.”

This project puts something unique on these students’ resumes that will help many of them get future green jobs. Now, we just have to put the right policies in place so there are jobs to offer them when they graduate.

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