DENVER - Colorado touts having 300 days of sunshine. The U.S. Department of Energy was convinced enough to have a Solar Decathlon in Denver.
Cue the snow.
"First thing, we got in and there was about three inches of snow on (the solar panels)," said University of Denver solar decathlete Christopher Landsinger. "Solar panels function similar to a battery, so anyone cell that's covered can reduce the production of the entire panel."
Landsinger is part of the UC Berkeley/University of Denver team.
They have a staircase to their rooftop, which allowed easy access to brush the snow off the solar panels.
"We came up here and brushed them off and now we're up to almost two kilowatt hours. A sunny day, we usually get five, five-and-a-half kilowatt (hours) out of these guys," said Landsinger. "If you look behind my back, you can see a bunch of other houses, none of whom have cleaned off their solar panels. Because we can stand on our roof and we have a roof deck, we really have an advantage today."
Other homes clearly had their solar panels covered, like a house built by a team from the Netherlands. Another house, built by a team from UC Davis, had a ladder leading to the roof, presumably to clear the solar panels.
"If we would have left the snow on them all day, we would not have produced any power to speak of, and we would have drawn from the grid, so we would have definitely used some electricity that we didn't produce which would have hurt us in the overall competition," said Landsinger.
With just three of 10 criteria judged, the UC Berkeley/DU team is currently in second place behind a team from Switzerland (LINK: https://www.solardecathlon.gov/2017/competition-scores.html)
The 10-day event is set up close to Denver International Airport, near the A Line stop at 61st and Pena Boulevard.
Students from across the world have built energy efficient solar homes to compete in 10 criteria. The winner gets $300,000. Just for building the home, participants get $100,000.
"It doesn't necessarily matter that it's snowing, it's more of how much light is getting to those panels. How much energy from the sun is getting to those panels," said Brenton Krieger, a decathlete representing the UC Berkeley side of the DU team.
The 10 categories the teams compete in include:
- Market Potential
- Health & Comfort
- Home Life
Today's judging was on energy.
"We're making about 200 percent of the energy we actually need every single day," said Brenton Krieger, a decathlete representing the UC Berkeley side of the DU team. "We are competing in two categories with our energy, so basically they're seeing if we're both 'net zero' and how much money we can sell back to the grid."
The competition is supposed open to the public, though it was closed today because of muddy conditions around the homes. It is expected to reopen Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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