The University of Maryland Solar Decathlon Team capped its "silver" honors in the U.S. Department of Energy competition by winning the BP Solar People's Choice Award on Saturday. The Terps amassed the most votes as the favorite of visitors to the Decathlon site over nine days.
These innovative homes run entirely with solar power.
The students call their solar home the LEAFhouse -- in part reflecting its green design and in honor of nature's most efficient solar panel. Solar power is used to run everything in the house, with enough power left over to run an electric car.
University of Maryland architecture and engineering students received high honors Friday on the National Mall, capturing second place in the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon -- an international competition encouraging students to build and design innovative homes that fully utilize solar power.
The Terp Solar Decathlon Team -- representing Maryland and the D.C. region -- led all U.S. schools, coming in just behind Darmstadt, Germany. It was the best showing ever for a Terp team in the competition. Roughly 25 points separated the first and second place winners. Santa Clara, Penn State and Madrid rounded out the top five.
The Maryland LEAFHouse has one of the few technical innovations in the competition -- a waterfall that incorporates design and function to reduce moisture and the energy needed for air conditioning, called a liquid desiccant system.
"The LEAFHouse team is exploring a technology relatively new to single-family home design called a Desiccant System. This concept has been proven sound on larger buildings. The basic idea is to use a material called a desiccant (in our case a type of salt called calcium chloride) to absorb water directly from the air without all the complicated machinery and energy requirements of conventional AC. As the desiccant absorbs water, it becomes diluted and its ability to dry the air declines. The desiccant needs to be regenerated. This can be done by simply heating up the desiccant and letting the water evaporate to the outside air. Thus, the desiccant is concentrated and ready to return to its job of drying the indoor air. LEAFHouse uses heat from the Solar Hot Water collectors to regenerate the desiccant. Remember that heat is a lot easier and cheaper to make than electricity, so this is a big improvement over conventional AC for dehumidification," according to information available at the solar team website. For further information on this innovation as well as details on the solar panels, costs, and how to build your own solar home see http://solarteam.org/page.php?id=575
"This team has tremendous depth and focus," says Julie Gabrielli, an architecture faculty and team member. "The attention to detail and tenacity has carried us through many challenges along the way. Now that the students have worked together on a collaborative, multi-disciplinary team, they understand the great value of including a wide diversity of viewpoints and approaches in solving problems."
The ten contests that decide the Solar Decathlon measure many aspects of a home's performance and appearance: Architecture, Engineering, Market Viability, Communications, Lighting, Comfort Zone, Appliances, Hot Water, Energy Balance and Getting Around. A perfect total score for all ten contests is 1,200 points.
"We are changing the rules by which buildings are designed and built, and showcasing the tools available to do so now," says Amy Gardner, architecture professor and lead faculty member on the team. "The Solar Decathlon is an unparalleled opportunity to educate future and current leaders in the process of integrated design; to inform the public about environmentally sound, sustainable construction; and to promote the role of efficiency and solar technologies in achieving energy independence."
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