Solar Decathlon team begins drawing up plans

The team will unveil plans publicly in September.

A little more than one year from now, members of the University’s Solar Decathlon team will be gearing up to travel to Washington, D.C., to live on the National Mall.

Currently, their future home is still on paper.

Since January, when the team was selected to participate in the international competition to create and maintain energy-efficient, solar-powered homes, the team has been focusing on integrating the multiple aspects of the project together.

Different deadlines have come and gone, and the team has put in more hours per week during the summer than it normally did during the school year, president of the Solar Decathlon team Shengyin Xu said.

The preliminary designs for the project were due in June.

“The first submission, everyone was running to get their pieces done,” she said.

Another deadline, approaching later this month, is the completion of the team’s website, and in September the team will present the final designs to the public.

The team will also participate in Institute of Technology’s Welcome Week activities, and be featured in the University’s building at the State Fair at the end of August, Xu said.

Fewer commitments during the summer meant the team could devote more time to the project, allowing participants to tweak designs and plans.

“It’s a lot more free form during the summer, a little bit more loose,” Xu said.

In January, the Department of Energy selected 20 international teams to compete in the 2009 Solar Decathlon, the fourth ever.

When it starts, the University will field its first team.

Ann Johnson , project director, said the team is right where it should be with a little more than a year until the competition.

“We’re really moving forward at a great pace,” she said.

The group continues to recruit members, and informational sessions in fall will be geared towards getting new participants, Johnson said.

About 20 to 30 people are directly involved in the project Xu said, although as many as 100 are helping in some fashion.

Penn State’s team featured over 700 participants in the 2007 competition, faculty advisor Jeffrey R.S. Brownson said.

Johnson said the University is beginning to gather products and assistance from industry sources before they begin to construct the home, which is an aspect of the competition Brownson said he appreciates.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for academia to interact with industry,” he said.

Like the University, Ohio State University ‘s first-year team is beginning to pull together the many facets of the project, adviser Mark Walter said.

“We’re currently in a state where we’re trying to integrate them,” he said.

While the University and Penn State hope to begin building their houses by early 2009, Ohio State plans to start “putting the footprint down” as early as September, Walter said.

Johnson said the fall will be used for refining the project’s design, and for fundraising purposes – the house itself will cost about $350,000, she said.

“During the school year, it’s more about production and getting the design pieces together,” Xu said.