Two great opportunities to learn more about solar are about to occur: The National Solar Tour and The Solar Decathlon. The former is an annual event across the U.S. and the latter is a biennial event. Both allow people across the U.S. to get an in-person view of solar and how it works.
The National Solar Tour is, as it name implies, a national event. It’s hosted by local chapters of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and allows people from across the nation to go into their neighbors’ homes to see how they’ve integrated solar power into their lives. This year marks the 18th year for the tour, which has been growing annually. Along with homeowners, solar installers are often present at homes and buildings on the tour. As such, visitors can ask the installers and homeowners questions about the installation, the process, how much it cost, whether or not solar is saving the homeowners money and more.
Last year the tour drew more than 90,000 people to their neighbors’ homes. The tours took place in 38 states at 578 local tours. In all, more than 9,000 sites participated in the tours. The majority of the tours were homes, according to ASES, however about a third of the buildings that participated were commercial or municipal buildings. This year the solar tour is supposed to be held on Oct. 5, although some tours are held earlier or later, depending on the local chapter of ASES.
Also coming Oct. 3 through Oct. 13 is the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. Unlike the solar tour, the Solar Decathlon is an international event that challenges teams to design and build a solar-powered home and then compete in series of contests. This year the decathlon will host 20 teams, most of which come from the U.S., but teams are coming from as far as the Czech Republic.
The Solar Decathlon is taking place at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif. It’s the first time the event hasn’t been held in Washington, D.C., since it was first held in 2002. Most teams in the Decathlon have already packed up their homes and are shipping them to the park. Once they arrive on Sept. 23, the teams will have a couple of weeks to assemble their homes and prepare for visitors. Beginning on Oct. 3 the homes will compete in 10 contests; some measured and some juried.
During the last Solar Decathlon the DOE added an important new contest—affordability. The homes lose points if they cost over $250,000 to make. Prior to the affordability contest, the winners of the Solar Decathlon were often those that spent the most money on their home.