Solar Decathlon heads to California

The Solar Decathlon has always been a favorite of ours. Every year, teams of students from universities around the country and the world show off their brilliant ideas for how to make solar powered homes beautiful, efficient, functional, sustainable and affordable -- all teams' homes must be made for $250,000 or less. Many teams submit designs for the Department of Energy sponsored event, but only 20 are chosen to build their homes and compete in the contest.

The competition will be held at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, CA from October 3 - 13, 2013. This is the first year in the competition's history that it has been held outside of Washington, D.C.

Teams take part in ten contests: Architecture, Market Appeal, Engineering, Communications, Affordability, Comfort Zone, Hot Water, Appliances, Home Entertainment and Energy Balance. The winning homes always produce as much or more energy than they consume.

The 2013 contest has some amazing entries that all reflect the climate and natural surroundings of the team's locations like this one from from University of Alberta.

Dept of Energy Solar Decathlon/CC BY-ND 2.0

And this one from the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Dept of Energy Solar Decathlon/CC BY-ND 2.0

Features on the homes include things like retractable solar panels that act as shade for a patio on the University of North Carolina house, home automation systems that allow everything to be controlled on a smartphone on the West Virginia University house and an under-floor heating and cooling system on the Capital DC team's house. Electric car charging will be a part of half of the teams' homes to showcase how the houses can power a family's entire lives.

Take a look at computer animated tours of some of the homes below and go to the Solar Decathlon website for much more information on the teams, great photos and videos. Check back in October to see the results of the competition.

Tags: Architecture | Solar Power | Technology