Students prove solar-powered utopia does exist

Future-Proof: Navigate Threats, Seize Opportunities at ICNY 2018 | Jan 22-26 at the Marriott Marquis, Times Square, New York

(Editors note: This is the first of a two-part series. See Part 2: Solar Decathlon provides lessons for home builders.) If you designed and built a house with all the creature comforts of 21st century living and powered everything with solar energy, what would it look like? Judging by the 18 houses entered in the Solar Decathlon, a student competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and held on the Mall in Washington, D.C., last month, a solar-powered house can be as varied in looks as any other kind of house. Would I want to live in one? The architecture and engineering student teams, representing schools in the United States, Canada and Spain, make a strong case. A high degree of comfort can be achieved by a judicious mix of high-tech, computer-driven mechanical systems powered by solar electricity and simple passive solar heating and cooling techniques that have used by builders for thousands of years. The systems appear...