The U.S. Department of Energy has named the University of Maryland one of 16 collegiate teams that will be participating in the prestigious U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2017. The international competition, whose location has yet to be announced, challenges participants to “design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive,” the Department of Energy outlines. For the first time in the competition’s history, teams will be competing for $2 million in prize money.

“The Solar Decathlon showcases the unbelievable talent that our students bring to hands-on challenges,” said Darryll J. Pines, Farvardin Professor and Dean of the A. James Clark School of Engineering.  “Our solar-powered houses are built on a strong educational foundation and nurtured by creativity, team building and grit. This is a formula students will use again and again to solve society’s intractable problems.” 

“We are thrilled to once again pair with our peers in engineering, landscape sciences and other disciplines to create this unique, interdisciplinary experience in sustainable design education for our students,” said David Cronrath, Dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. “The future of our built environment relies on exercises like the Solar Decathlon, which provide a venue for experimentation, discovery and innovation, and that lead to sustainable, net-zero settlements for the future.”

During each competition cycle, teams spend two years seeing a design through from concept to creation. At the end, they come together to re-assemble and present their sustainably-minded homes. The buildings are then tested and judged in a variety of contests, which evaluate everything from market appeal to appliance operation.  

The 16 teams selected to participate in the Solar Decathlon during the 2017 event hail from across the U.S., Switzerland and the Netherlands.  Teams will consist of students, faculty, and mentors from a wide range of disciplines including engineering, architecture, plant sciences, business and communications. 

The University of Maryland’s group will be headed by three Principal Investigators: Raymond Adomaitis, a professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering who is also appointed in the Institute for Systems Research; Michael Binder, a lecturer from the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (MAPP); and Garth Rockcastle, a professor and former dean at MAPP. The team’s progress can be followed at:

This is the university’s fifth time participating in the competition. UMD’s team was the winner of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 and placed second in 2007. The group’s winning creation, WaterShed, was inspired by the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and emphasized both solar and water efficiency. After the competition, the widely-lauded WaterShed building was purchased by the regional electric service provider Pepco and converted into its Sustainability Center.


February 9, 2016

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