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Earth Power Technology

German Team Wins 2009 Solar Decathlon 56

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-always-sunny-in-dusseldorf dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Our team recently competed in the 2009 US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. The Solar Decathlon is a 2-year competition that challenges university students from 20 US and international teams to design, build, and operate the most attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered house. Objective scores are based on comfort control, appliance performance, net-metering, and home entertainment. Subjective contest scores are determined by juries that weigh the engineering design, architectural design, as well as marketing and communication strategies. Team Germany took 1st place due to a large net production of electricity, while Team California claimed top honors in the Architecture contest. Minnesota won the engineering design section. However, looking beyond the contest winners, the main purpose of the event is to raise awareness about solar technology and sustainable design. As part of this campaign, products used in all 20 homes are listed on the DOE website. The most exciting aspect is that the construction and engineering documents and communication materials from all teams are open-sourced for anyone to use or modify!"
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German Team Wins 2009 Solar Decathlon

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  • Hopefully ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by foobsr (693224)
    The most exciting aspect is that the construction and engineering documents and communication materials from all teams are open-sourced for anyone to use or modify!

    ... they have chosen a proper "IP-format" to avoid patent trolls to grab ideas in order to 'protect' them.

    CC.
    • Re:Hopefully ... (Score:5, Informative)

      by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday October 17, 2009 @07:24AM (#29776623) Homepage Journal

      ... they have chosen a proper "IP-format" to avoid patent trolls to grab ideas in order to 'protect' them.

      They did, it's called publication. Nothing that YOU can do will prevent the patent office awarding someone else a patent for something you created, but publishing provides strong evidence of prior art. Way to karma whore, though.

      • So where is this open-source house that I can go in and modify it, like say, knock out a wall or make a hole for a new door?

        • by sumdumass (711423)

          You do not get the house unless you buy it. What you get is the source code for the house. It's supposed to be availible on one of the linked websites. Instead of running

          • $configure
          • $make
          • $make install

          You will have to run something more like

          • $configure
          • $buy lumber
          • $make
          • $hammer
          • $make install
    • I don't think design can be patented. Luckily, otherwise stealing^Wrecombining user interface ideas would not be possible.
      Trademarks/Logos are another thing.

      • by KDR_11k (778916)

        There is actually a specific form of patent called a design patent, it's not listed in the same list as regular patents though so it probably has different rules.

  • solar (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by timmarhy (659436)
    unless your a weathly land owner, solar is a pipe dream
    • Re:solar (Score:5, Informative)

      by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @05:58AM (#29776423)

      Photovoltaic maybe, but solar thermal is wholly ready now and efficient for the average home owner, especially evacuated tubes:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_thermal_collector#Evacuated_tube [wikipedia.org]

      A few racks of those on the roof, when coupled with a passive haus, which can be built with 5% cost of a normal house, would probably cover a 95% of normal household's heating/hot_water needs with no major electric/natural_gas/oil backup required, even in the mild climates such as the north-east states:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_house [wikipedia.org]

      Even in Canada, there seem to be projects revolving around that type of thing:
      http://www.dlsc.ca/how.htm [www.dlsc.ca]

      Photovoltaic is what, 15-30% at best? Solar Thermal can be up to 90% and evacuated tubes are pretty cheap now.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        PV is totally accessible to the homeowner who has a clue. Yes, I do expect everyone to be able to wire a PV system. Specialization is for Insects... plus, it's stupidly simple to wire PV. And if you can't figure out house wiring as an adult, you deserve to be electrocuted. You can trivially find solar panels under $3/watt. If you control your consumption, you can save absurd amounts of money. Buy a chest fridge (or add a thermostat to a chest freezer to make it a fridge) and stop heating your whole house un

      • 40%, but they're quite viable. From Emcore, you can get 1MW for 2-3 USD per watt which is competitive with all solar cell technology (but it's probably not for a single home, and it's better off for use in, say, desert area with low cloud cover and shadowing).

        $/watt is pretty much standard across the whole PV industry though. But I agree with you, I don't see a great future in photovoltaic technology, I think solar-thermal is far more promising. Typically what they do is concentrate the solar energy on simp

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Unfortunately, unless we pass a law that eliminates the ability of Home Owner Associations to deny approval for solar energy devices, these are not likely to become widespread.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by ender06 (913978)
        Solar thermal can be up to 90% efficient? Have you heard of the laws of thermodynamics and Carnot efficiency? The average power plant peaks at about 60-65% efficient.

        Sure, right now photovoltaics are only 15-30% for system efficiency, thats system, not just the cells. But PV is not restrained by the Carnot efficiency because it is not a heat engine. More demand = more research = better cells. Just look at the space grade cells and PV concentrator cells. World record right now is about 43% efficient.
  • Nice but (Score:2, Interesting)

    by samuX (623423)
    I'm very happy to see this kind of competition however from a scientific prospective i see some problem: saying you save co2 with solar energy is a bit "gross", first to produce all those solar panels you had to pollute the environment so the first question someone should ask is : ok solar is good but how much do you pollute to produce one flat panel ? Are we sure the pollution made (and i'm not speaking only about amount of CO2 but also toxic in rivers, sea etc. etc. ) to make a solar panel is less than t
    • Re:Nice but (Score:4, Informative)

      by rdnetto (955205) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @06:51AM (#29776549)

      The pollution produced in the manufacturing of a solar panel is a one time cost. The pollution involved in producing & supplying a fossil fuel is an ongoing cost. All you have to do is use the solar panel for more than, say, a year, and you've already broken even in terms of pollution.
      Obviously this is an oversimplification (not all forms of pollution are equal), but you get the idea.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by samuX (623423)
        what you say is reasonable but there are a lot of assumptions and i really would like to see some numbers.
        Back in the old days pc were relatively polluting and none ever thought about that. Now we know of all the toxic problem related to their making - and their reciclying - so most companies are working on making them more "green".

        So what about solar panel ? Are they made with this concepts in mind or are they made just as cheap as possible without taking in account pollution made to make them or no
        • by Marcika (1003625)

          what you say is reasonable but there are a lot of assumptions and i really would like to see some numbers. So what about solar panel ? Are they made with this concepts in mind or are they made just as cheap as possible without taking in account pollution made to make them or not? How long does it takes to make them "greener" or , using math, when this is true ?

          Google is your friend. This IEEE Spectrum article [ieee.org] has some numbers.

          Also, even though the panels are made to last "forever" (many manufacturers give 25-year warranties), some players in the industry are already giving the option to recycle (since it only costs 1/3 in energy terms [treehugger.com] to recycle them than to manufacture them from scratch).

      • Ever consider that both solar and the burning of fossil fuels result in pollution that are both ongoing cost?

        You manufacture a solar panel and then use it for X years to get as much energy as you can. When the solar panel is discarded, you effectively paid "z" pollution (during manufacturing) for the "X" years of energy.

        Alternatively, if you had used a coal-burning power plant, the energy of those "X" years would have required the burning of coal and generating "y" amount of pollution.

        If you want to have

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You ask, you'll get ananswer [oregon.gov]

    • by cynyr (703126)
      not only that, but I don't see that roof taking any sort of now load.
      • I wonder what wind speed will cause those panels to blow off the house.
      • What happens when it hails (grape sized and bigger) how many years will the panels last for?
      • Do they have an energy storage method, saying that by selling back to the grid they pay off the solar panels is silly because if everyone did this the price you sell back at would plummet.
      • What happens to this when it is -40F out?
      • What was the material cost as a percentage of t
    • Now I've seen everything. An anti-solar environmentalist! Just goes to show you, you could live for 99 years and still not experience all the world has to offer.
      • by KillerBob (217953)

        The cost of manufacturing solar panels is one of the biggest arguments against them in enviro-geek circles.... it runs similar to the arguments against buying a Prius. You get a warmfuzzy from owning one, but the amount of energy that went into the production of the batteries, the toxic cost to the environment both from the production and the ultimate disposal thereof, all the travel that the thing has done in its various component levels... you end up costing the environment more than you ever save by buyi

        • by ender06 (913978)
          So solar cells take a lot of energy to make, no argument there. But why is it always assumed that you're not making your cells with energy from other solar cells? No, the first cells weren't made using renewable energy, but who says we can't do that now? Imagine that, a renewable loop. Oh, and don't forget that you can recycle the solar cells at the end of their lifetime to make new ones.
      • An intelligent environmentalist does not decide every technology in a big umbrella is good or bad. Solar, in theory, is the closest thing that we have to a renewable energy source. Some forms of solar power, however, cause more pollution over their life time than just burning fossil fuels. Producing photovoltaic cells is, currently, an expensive and polluting activity. There are other forms of solar power, which are generally slightly less efficient unless you have a big area, that are much cleaner and
        • "intelligent environmentalist"? Is that one of those contradictory terms like military intelligence or jumbo shrimp? I was under the impression that it was utterly vital for us to buy as many solar cells as possible at inflated prices, in order to (make a profit) I mean, save the enviroment by advancing the science of solar cells. But, intelligence tells us we must automatically gainsay everything...I mean that's the heart of environmentalism after all.
  • Limp icks (Score:5, Funny)

    by Velox_SwiftFox (57902) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @06:24AM (#29776493)

    I'm waiting for the nuclear heptaluge.

  • Did you really mean "stupid people's village" or did you actually mean Düsseldorf? [wikipedia.org]

  • Computer with no modems / routers listed as well tv's with no cable / sat boxes listed as well.

    Nice way to miss needed parts to the Products.

  • by BlackPignouf (1017012) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @09:16AM (#29776935)

    Congrats to the team! What TFS doesn't say, is that TU Darmstadt won this competition for the 2nd time in a row.
    Our research center was involved in the energy system design for the 2007 edition, but TU Darmstadt failed to mention it anywhere.

    Nice to see that they achieved to win without screwing anyone this time!

    • by Sir_Gimpy (861124)
      Congrats to team Germany. I'm part of team Ontario-BC (we got 4th) It was a great experience, but there were problems for the contests. Team Germany even lost power for a while from the grid. And yeah, they did kinda just pile the PV panels on their house, they didn't even have a solar thermal system. I hope next year they put a limit on PV size, because it became partly a competition on who could put the most panels up for the net metering part.
  • If only the football team could manage this kind of production....

  • I viewed these houses over four different days, from construction to display.
    Among the top contenders, some equipment was obviously German,
    Bosch Dishwashers and German refrigerators for most every top contender.
    Others viewing these solar houses often asked where to get some equipment on the top houses.
    Solar cells: Germany
    Heat exchanger: Germany
    Kitchen equipment: Germay
    . . .: Germany
    While some contest categories like architecture couldn't rely on German equipment,
    this solar house contest seemed like the post

  • Take a look at the home page for the European counterpart of this contest:
    http://www.sdeurope.org/index.php/eng/PARTICIPATING-TEAMS [sdeurope.org]
    Count carefully, and you find only 19 finalists, and not 20. Why? Because the 20th was from Ariel University Center, an Israeli university located in a settlement:
    http://spme.net/cgi-bin/articles.cgi?ID=6022 [spme.net]

    Somebody made some noise, and they got disqualified from the contest on political reasons (just like Leonid Levin's Ph.D. in 1972 Soviet Russia).

    I can't comment on the AUC

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