he U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is an award-winning program that challenges 20 collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. Aims of the competition are: 1. To educate the participants about the benefits of energetic efficiency, renewable energies and new building technologies, so that the next generation of engineers, architects and constructors will be able to use such knowledge in the their future studies and careers. 2. To inform the public opinion about renewable energies, energetic efficiency and all those technologies able to reduce energy consumption. 3. To promote a faster entry of solar technologies into the market. This competition encourages the research and the development of technologies for energetic efficiency and energy production. 4. To promote the collaboration between students from various academic disciplines, such as engineering and architecture, that have usually no opportunity to cooperate till their access to the job world. 5. To promote a new integrated approach to building. This method differs from the traditional planning and building because the same team considers all the interactions in order to create a more comfortable structure, to save energy and to reduce the environmental impact. 6. To demonstrate the potentialities of passive and active houses, able to produce from renewable sources like sun and wind more energy than they consume. The winning team produces a house that is affordable, attractive, and easy to live in; maintains comfortable and healthy indoor environmental conditions; supplies energy to household appliances for cooking, cleaning, and entertainment; provides adequate hot water; produces as much or more energy than it consumes.

The first Solar Decathlon was held in 2002; the competition has since occurred biennially in 2005, 2007, and 2009. The next event will take place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23–Oct. 2, 2011. Open to the public free of charge, visitors can tour the houses, gather ideas to use in their own homes, and learn how energy-saving features can help them save money today. Modelled after the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C., the first Solar Decathlon Europe took place in Madrid, Spain, in June 2010. The decathletes spent 10 days competing in the Villa Solar near the Royal Palace (Palacio Real) of historic Madrid. A combination of task completion, measurement, and jury scoring determined Solar Decathlon Europe’s first champion: Virginia Tech. The next Solar Decathlon Europe will occur in spring/summer 2012. Proposals for participation in Solar Decathlon Europe 2012 are due Nov. 3, 2010. For more information about the application process, see the Solar Decathlon Europe Web site.