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If they build it, they may win: WVU Solar Decathlon team readying for competition

on Thu, 07/25/2013 - 08:00

The walls are up.

And soon enough, a roof will cover the log-style energy efficient house being constructed by a team of West Virginia University students as part of the international Solar Decathlon competition.

Students have spent several months designing and building a solar house for the Decathlon, a collegiate design-and-build competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and slated for Oct. 3-13 at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” said Drew Carrier, an electrical engineering major and member of the Decathlon team. “We’re pulling long shifts. At the end of the day, you feel exhausted after 13 hours in the sun. But we’re excited about where we’re at.”

After installing the roof, students will install solar panels and make other adjustments to complete the house – before they tear it down and ship it to the West Coast.

The house is being constructed near WVU’s Communications Building and the Student Recreation Center on the Evansdale campus. Students have faced all sorts of challenges, from pummeling storms to extreme heat, yet they say they’ll be ready for the spotlight in October.

WVU was among 20 international teams selected to compete in the Decathlon. The house is the first log-style home accepted into the Decathlon and will rely on natural resources to control temperature and incorporate a smart home system that utilizes sensors for various features.

The team still has a few hurdles to clear -- one being raising enough funds to send students to California for the competition.

30 Students for 30 Days was recently launched by the WVU Foundation to raise funds for this effort. Despite a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to fund the building of the house, the team still needs money to travel to California. A travel fund of $50,000 is necessary to get the team and its project there for the month-long Decathlon.

The WVU team consists of about 50 students across multiple disciplines, which include the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, the College of Creative Arts, the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism and the College of Business & Economics.

According to the Department of Energy, the winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

The first Solar Decathlon was held in 2002; the competition has since occurred biennially in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011.

For more information on the team, go to

To donate to the WVU Solar House Team, go to

The Foundation is currently conducting A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University – a $750 million private fundraising effort on behalf of WVU.