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Students to compete in international solar decathlon

For more than six months, Team Texas ADAPT Home–UTEP’s and EPCC’s solar decathlon team–have been preparing to compete against 20 universities for the 2013 Solar Decathlon.

Team Texas students traveled to Irvine, Calif., on Sept. 21 to compete at the 2013 Solar Decathlon, which was hosted at the Orange County Fairgrounds. The final competition is set to take place Oct. 1-13.

The Solar Decathlon is a bi-annual event hosted by the Department of Energy and The National Renewable Energy Laboratories. This year, the competition is comprised of students from 25 different schools representing four countries, and each team is competing to see who has built the best solar home.

This is the first year UTEP has participated. Competitors include Stanford University, the University of Southern California, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Czech Technical University, University of Calgary and The University of New Mexico, who is also partnered with Arizona State University.

Team Texas is the only group representing the state of Texas.

There are currently 80 students, 10 faculty advisors, 10 volunteers and 10 sponsors working on Texas’ solar house that will be sent to the competition.

“We are confident about this competition,” said Lourdes Esquivel, communication team leader and senior pre-business major. “The competitors are great teams from universities from all over the world, but we have a talented team.”

Construction management graduate student, Rogelio Dominguez, is the onsite construction manager for Team Texas. He said that despite the challenges they have faced, he is proud of the accomplishments that have been completed so far.

“This is the biggest college engineering competition in the world,” Dominguez said. “Our team had difficulties. Our design changed many times, funding was a big problem and construction had many problems to start. From all of the schools, we had the latest start, but we are proud to have been able to complete our house in less than 50 days and still be in the competition.”

The home has to be built on less than $200,000 to show that it is a viable, marketable home.

Among the home’s features is its efficiency. The home produces electricity through bifacial solar collection units. These collectors gather solar energy from both the top and the bottom of the device. Compared to traditional solar panels, these units can recover 30 percent more energy.

Next week’s four-day competition will be closed to the public and only open to judges. Following the competition, representatives from each of the competing teams will host an open exhibition. It is expected that an estimated 90,000 people will walk through and view the houses.

The week after the public exhibition, the home must be broken down and brought back to UTEP. Team Texas’s home will be brought back to the university as a part of the 2014 centennial celebration.

Although there is no cash prize for the winner, past solar homes have been purchased for large amounts of money.

Amanda Guillen may be reached at [email protected].

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Students to compete in international solar decathlon