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Solar House Competition

2002-10-17

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Experts say in the near future,many houses in the United States will be powered by energy from thesun. Many people in Washington, D-C, recently were able to see whatsome of those homes might look like. Several hundred collegestudents from across the country took part in a competition to seewho could build the best solar-powered house. The United StatesDepartment of Energy organized the competition.

Students from fourteen colleges and universities took part inthis Solar Decathlon competition. Student teams competed in a seriesof ten contests to see who could design, build and operate the besthouse powered only by the sun.

The solar homes were built on the National Mall, the grassy openarea between the United States Capitol building and the WashingtonMonument. The solar houses were set up in the middle.

Each team included at least twenty students of design,architecture and building sciences. The students gained the money tobuy equipment and materials for their house. Each house cost as muchas two-hundred-fifty-thousand dollars to build.

A solar-powered house has a roof designed to take in the heat ofthe sun and change it to energy. That power is then stored in abattery bank which supplies power to the whole house.

As part of the competition, the teams were expected to spend mostof the day in their homes doing normal activities. The activitiesused electricity powered by the sun. For example, the studentscooked food, used computers, operated lights and washed clothes inmachines. They even drove around the solar village in electric carspowered by a solar battery.

Richard King is the director of the United States Department ofEnergy's solar energy programs. He created the idea for the SolarDecathlon. He says the contest is designed to show Americans thatsolar energy works. He says the use of solar energy in the UnitedStates is less than in other parts of the world. Seventy-percent ofsolar equipment made in the United States is sold to developingcountries.

Mister King says only about twenty-thousand American homes aresolar-powered. He says contests such as the Solar Decathlon couldinfluence more builders and homeowners to support the use of solarenergy.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written byCynthia Kirk.