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The jury is in... in the house, that is

Monday, Oct. 7, 2013

Saturday was sunny and hot in Irvine—good weather for a Solar Decathlon! Dr. Hight reports that of the more than 2600 visitors that day, one group was a real stand-out: "The Bronco Men's Soccer Team was in the area for some matches and they came to the house en masse. Shouts of 'SCU SCU SCU' announced their arrival from several houses away." So great to have that support!

"Another milestone of the day," said Hight, "was getting into the top spot on the leader board! It is a nice achievement, although there is a very, very long way to go. What it does say is that the house is performing extremely well, and the team is taking care of all of the tasks that earn points – this is important because we are bound to lose points in the juried contests, such as affordability." Teams earn up to 100 points in the affordability contest if their construction costs are $250k or less—Radiant House comes in a bit higher. The team had to make some tough choices early in the design process between maximizing points or honoring their mission to produce a house that demonstrates their belief that living sustainably does not have to entail sacrifice in aesthetics or lifestyle. The long-term goal won out and the result is an exceptionally energy-efficient home that is also elegantly livable.

Making these types of concessions for the juried contests means that the team must be hyper-vigilant about performing well on the non-subjective, measured contests such as energy balance. On Sunday the team had a scare when they discovered their solar optimizer and PV monitoring system was not relaying data from the panels "and, worse," said Fr. Jim Reites, "the solar array was performing at only half power at midday!" After some troubleshooting, the management unit was unplugged and the system was rebooted. The good news: the system came right back online and the solar array was once again operating at full power. The not-so-good news: we lost a lot of precious time and sunlight when we could have been capturing energy and generating power to run the house and send back to the grid. Turns out both SCU and Stanford were using the same channel to communicate with their systems' gateways, causing interference between the two. The problem was fixed, but not before we dipped a bit negative in energy balance. Fr. Reites is confident we can make it up today.

Today is a big day in the competition. The Solar Village is closed to outside visitors as official juries are visiting each house for their timed walkthroughs. Teams are also performing a double-load of wash, the television and computer will be running, lights will be on this evening, and throughout the day three hot water draws will be taken (if you deliver 15 gallons of 110°F water within 10 minutes, you receive points; if not, you get nada; not to worry, our Broncos are pros at this.)

Let's hope the juries like what they see today, and don't forget to cast your ballot/s (you can vote repeatedly if you have multiple email addresses) for Radiant House in the People's Choice Award contest!

Tags: Santa Clara Engineering, Santa Clara University Solar Decathlon, Solar Decathlon, Solar Decathlon News, U.S. Department of Energy

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