Kent's Climate Tour

My solo bike tour exploring climate change solutions

South, to the Solar Decathlon

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Saturday I left Long Beach heading for Costa Mesa.  Nice beach trail through Huntington Beach with its lively surfer scene.  


Then up the Santa Ana river trail:   

After arriving at my mother in law’s in Costa Mesa (my local host) I set off for the Decathlon 13 miles away in Irvine.  Lovely bay-side and riparian trails much of the way:   


The event site was located at Orange County’s Great Park, the former El Toro air base, waaaay out at the fringe of Irvine, not easy to get to and so sprawling that people had to be shuttled in from remote parking lots (I biked right into the site tho).  Once inside it was alive with visitors checking out the 14 experimental homes on display, a sampling of some below.

You can learn details about all the entries and the winners at DOE’s Decathlon site.  

Amongst other requirements, all the entrant teams were required to produce enough extra energy to power an electric car to travel 25 miles (a typical commute I suppose).   

 All of the entries had extensive solar electric panels, some hidden on top, others visible, some incorporated as a shading device:

The teams each had unique emphases. For instance, Univ. of Buffalo’s Grow Home featured vegetable growing beds that could be moved between outdoor deck space in mild weather and rolled into a sheltered area when cold.  Their calcs suggested the food raised could save a family hundreds of dollars: 



Missouri’s Crowder College and Drury Univ. entry is designed to withstand tornadoes and hurricanes, armored with lexan panels and windows. 

While most teams shipped their completed homes to the Irvine event site, So. Carolina’s Clemson Univ. sent digital files to local wood fabricators and assembled their home from this “kit” using locally-sourced materials (having built a prototype first back home).  They intend to patent their clever plywood panel construction method, which uses stainless steel zip ties to lock panels together: 

They also incorporated a simple, cable actuated damper system to allow family members to direct conditioned air to the zones of the house where needed, so not wasted on unoccupied rooms and providing some useful/educational interaction between occupants and home: 

More examples of the homes and technology:


The competition spurred many wonderful designs and ideas of course. But I was also very impressed with the energy and commitment of the young team members, many who weren’t even getting course credit for this.  Talking with several of them it was clear that they were committed to finding solutions for our warming planet and the teamwork and creativity inspired by this experince will have a lasting impact on them. 
Again, do check out the Decathlon site for lots of great info about the entries and their designs:


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