Colorado will be the solar capital of the world in October!

Twelve collegiate student teams from across the U.S. and around the globe will descend on Denver to assemble their high-performance homes for the 2017 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

The “solar village” will be located at the 61st & Peña Station on the University of Colorado A line commuter rail and will be open to the public from October 5 through 15. Visitors can tour the high-tech, energy-efficient solar homes, attend workshops, and learn about energy-saving technologies at the Sustainability Expo.

The Solar Decathlon is a biennial competition that launched in 2002. Student teams spend two years designing, tweaking, and building full-sized homes that require very little energy to operate. After assembling the homes on their campuses, the teams deconstruct them, transport them to the competition site, and re-assemble them into a solar village. During the competition, the homes are evaluated in a series of 10 contests.

“These students represent the next generation of engineers, architects, solar designers, energy and construction managers, and sustainability consultants,” says Linda Silverman, Director of the DOE Solar Decathlon. “The intense, multi-disciplinary experience the Solar Decathlon provides is invaluable for providing real-world experience that will help launch their careers.”

While all of the projects in this year’s event will be powered by the sun, they are much more than solar homes. Many feature urban agriculture, “smart home” systems, and recycled water.

Some of the 10 contests are based on measured performance, while others are judged by panels of experts from the tops of their fields. In part, the contests in this year’s event focus on innovation, water use and re-use strategies, smart energy use, and market potential.

Each project is designed for a an intended market, a region’s climate, and student-designed systems. For example, the team from Washington University—St. Louis is building Crete House, an insulated concrete structure with channels that funnel rainwater and support live plants, while the team from University of Nevada, Las Vegas, designed a handicapped-accessible home for retirees in a style that harkens back to the mid-century modern homes of Las Vegas.

Locally, the University of Denver teamed up with the University of California-Berkeley to build a solar house that could present more affordable living options in markets with a rapidly increasing cost of living, such as Denver and Northern California.

This year’s competition includes a new component: cash prizes will be awarded to each team that completes the competition, with larger prizes going to the top four teams.

“Each Solar Decathlon provides a hands-on experience for more than a thousand students eager to meet global energy challenges,” says Silverman. “Building futuristic homes that demonstrate how architecture and engineering play a central role in energy management will help inspire energy-saving solutions, as well as strengthen the reliability of the U.S. electric grid.”

The public is invited to see these structures from October 5 through October 15. For more information, visit the DOE Solar Decathlon website at here