Denver is the Next Location for the Solar Decathlon Competition in 2017

Solar Decathlon 2017 Denver
Crowds gather at U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 last October. Today, the Energy Department announced Denver will be the host city for the 2017 event. | Photo by Thomas Kelsey, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

At an event today in Denver, Colorado, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Under Secretary for Science and Energy, Dr. Franklin Orr, joined Mayor Michael Hancock to announce Denver as the host city for the next U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition in the fall of 2017.

Dr. Orr revealed that Denver won the bid to host this biennial event, in which student teams compete to design, build, and operate cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive solar-powered houses. The teams from across the country and around the world will be competing for $2 million in prize money.

In the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017, 16 teams will compete in 10 contests, ranging from architecture and engineering to home appliance performance. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends aesthetics and modern conveniences with maximum energy production and optimal efficiency. Watch highlights of the 2015 event here.

“As one of the top 10 metro areas for solar installations and sunny days, Denver is a great choice to host the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon,” said DOE Under Secretary Orr. “This competition gives students a unique opportunity to take real action on climate change and shape our sustainable future by encouraging the kind of innovation we’ll need to meet our nation’s clean energy goals. I congratulate Denver on becoming our next Solar Decathlon host city, and I wish the participating students the best of luck as they prepare for next year’s competition.”

The competition is planned to be staged near a new development close to Denver International Airport. The area around the 61st and Peña Commuter Rail Station is positioned to become a national model for sustainable, transit-oriented, greenfield development that can enhance the region’s overall economic competitiveness. It will do so by linking employment opportunities with a wide range of housing choices through increased transportation options and building value in existing and new neighborhoods along the East Corridor.

“Denver is proud to work with the U.S. Department of Energy to bring this fun and engaging academic competition to our city,” said Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “This opportunity not only highlights the Denver metro area’s leadership in energy efficiency but allows us to spotlight our burgeoning solar energy industry.”

Over the next 18 months, the competing teams will raise funds; design and build their 800-square foot, 100-percent solar-powered houses; and then transport their houses to the Denver competition site.

The teams are strongly interdisciplinary: drawing together students of architecture, engineering, computer science, marketing, and other disciplines to carry out their projects.

In addition to the site announcement, DOE announced Energetics Incorporated of Columbia, Maryland, as the new program administrator. Energetics will organize, manage, and conduct the competition. It will also help support the department’s commitment to improving the nation’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education efforts.

For the first time in the competition’s history, teams will compete for $2 million in prize money. Each team that brings an eligible house to the competition will receive prize money of at least $100,000 to help with construction and transportation expenses. The top-place finishers will receive more. For example, first place will receive $300,000, second place $225,000, and third-place $150,000.

The solar-powered houses developed by the teams will represent a diverse range of design approaches and building technologies. They will cater to a variety of target markets and geographic locations, climates and regions, including urban, suburban, and rural settings.

In the fall of 2017, the competing student teams will showcase their solar-powered houses at the competition site to the public, providing free tours of renewable energy systems and energy-efficient technologies, products, and appliances helping homeowners nationwide save money by saving energy.  On average, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon draws about 60,000 visitors per competition, including more than 500 middle school students who attend the showcase event through scheduled field trips.  The Orange County Great Park, located between Los Angeles and San Diego, California, hosted both the 2013 and 2015 competitions. Previous competitions were held in Washington, D.C.

The colleges and universities competing in Solar Decathlon 2017 are:

  • École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Lausanne, Switzerland)
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Daytona State College (Daytona Beach, Florida)
  • Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Georgia)
  • HU University of Applied Science Utrecht (Utrecht, Netherlands)
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, Missouri)
  • Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois)
  • Rice University (Houston, Texas)
  • Syracuse University (Syracuse, New York)
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham (Birmingham, Alabama)
  • University of California at Berkeley (Berkeley, California)
  • University of California, Davis (Davis, California)
  • University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Las Vegas, Nevada)
  • Washington State University (Pullman, Washington)
  • Washington University (St. Louis, Missouri)
  • West Virginia University (Morgantown, West Virginia).

The 16 teams include eight returning teams and eight new teams. Learn more about the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017 at

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