Tag: "usc"


  07:42:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 657 words  
Categories: Solar Decathlon - 2013

It's Official: Austria Wins Solar Decathlon Gold

The competitions are over and the results are in - Team Austria has won this year’s Solar Decathlon.  Here is our recap and review…

The competition was really close - check out the final standings (click on image for larger):

2013 Solar Decathlon final standingsOut of a possible 1,000 points, the top 10 teams all earned over 90% - high marks indeed for such a rigorous competition.  Poor Team West Virginia, they were plagued with problems throughout the competition and, along with Team Texas finished way off the mark.

The California teams had a mixed showing with best overall finish going to Team Stanford, followed by Team USC (Fight On!), right behind them was Team Santa Clara, and bringing up the rear was the combined team from Caltech and SCI-Arc with their ambitious, but unorthodox split-house design.

We toured the houses twice - the first time on the eve of the official opening and then again last Thursday - an official day for the event and the crowds were decent despite being in the middle of the work week.

crowds at 2013 solar decathlon

Ok, first and foremost, we have to give props to Team Austria for being the overall winner this year - here is a picture of their entry:

Team Austria's winning entry 2013 Solar DecathlonWe will admit that it looks pretty cool - but we really couldn’t get behind those outdoor drapes - really?  Nice concept and all, but how long would those last in the real world?  The judges, however, were not concerned.

Eames elephant roams fluxHome hallsRun on Sun favorite, Team USC, was not without their bragging rights, earning a perfect score for energy balance, placing first in Appliance efficiency and third in Architecture.  But then when you have an Eames Elephant roaming your halls, you know that your architectural chops are well established.

The Appliance competition was as tight as a tick with the top five teams separated by less than one point!  I’m sure the folks at Bosch - who supplied the appliances (and solar modules) to USC’s fluxHome entry - will be happy to point out the team’s success in this very competitive field.

Finally, winner of the “People’s Choice” Award was the Team from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for their entry, Urban-Eden.  We have to admit, this was our second fave of all the houses (never fear, fluxHome, nothing could displace you from your Number 1 ranking in our heart!).  This was a really clever concept:

UNC Charlotte's 2013 solar decathlon entry: urban-edenOn the street-side of the house is a wall 16″ thick made from four inches of concrete (made sustainable by substituting fly ash for cement), six inches of insulation and then six more inches of concrete.  That thick barrier was designed to insulate the house’s occupants from the noise of the city and allow them to turn their gaze to the south - the Eden side of their home.

Eden side of urban-edenThe living wall is filled with plants and a drip irrigation system which also incorporated a reflecting pond - part of the rainwater capture system - which was actually put to the test when  an unseasonable deluge moved through the village the day before.  For us, this was one of the better thought-out concepts and the execution was really impressive.

Movable solar array on UNC's urban-eden entry in 2013 Solar Decathlon

Oh, and another clever feature of the house was the movable solar array.  While not a tracking device, the solar system was mounted on rails that allowed it to be extended over the patio/deck area to provide shade in the summer (as it was during the competition) or retracted back over the house to allow more sunlight into the house during the winter.

Throughout the village, the creative students from all across the country and all over the world, demonstrated again and again that sustainable living need not imply some terrible hit to one’s standard of living.  Clever designs, competent craftsmanship, and attention to detail was everywhere on display.  This was a great event both for the public who toured these houses and for the students who designed, built, and all but lived in them.  They are all winners - congrats to them all!

And now, bring on 2015!



  04:07:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 214 words  
Categories: Solar Decathlon - 2013

People's Solar Decathlon Choice - Team USC?

The 2013 Solar Decathlon is well underway and one important competition is actually not only open to the public, it is determined by the public.  Here’s how you can play a part!

fluxHome exteriorWe are talking about the Solar Decathlon’s People’s Choice Award - where the general public gets to cast a vote for their favorite entry.  Now we have a dog in this hunt, and that is the awesome fluxHome from Team USC.  Above you see the home, ready to welcome the public, at Orange County Great Park in Irvine.  And here’s a look inside on an especially sunny day:

Interior view of Team USC's fluxHome

Check out  the plea for support from USC Team member, Evyn Larson:

Thank you for your support of the USC Solar Decathlon Team thus far.  We have one more request: Vote for #111, Team USC, in the People’s Choice award! All you need is an email address. Votes must be cast before 11:00 am on Friday, 10/11/13.

Click here to Vote!

Please pass the link around to your family, friends, and colleagues. We need all the votes we can get - together, we can win this!

Always, Fight On!
Evyn Larson and the Team USC students

So there you have it - do your part to support our local team by clicking on the link above and vote for #111, Team USC!


  11:42:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 334 words  
Categories: Solar Decathlon - 2013

Volunteers Needed for Solar Decathlon 2013

Solar Decathlon 2013The 2013 Solar Decathlon is taking place October 3-13 at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine and they need volunteers - if you’ve got the time, this would be a great gig!

Regular readers of this blog will know that we have been actively involved with Team USC and their fluxHome entry into the competition - and things are moving along great for them.  But for the overall competition to be a success, lots of volunteers are needed and that’s where you come in.

So without further ado, here’s a word or two from the competition organizers at the U.S. Department of Energy:

The Orange County Great Park is very excited to announce volunteer opportunities with Solar Decathlon 2013 and XPO!

What:   U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon and XPO

When: Event dates are Thursday-Sunday October 3-6 and 10-13, 2013.  Volunteer opportunities range from September 22-October 17, 2013.

Where: Orange County Great Park, Irvine, CA

Experience the excitement of being an important part of the West Coast debut of the Solar Decathlon and the first-ever XPO clean, renewable and efficient energy exposition as a volunteer. Hundreds of volunteers are needed for roles that include greeters, docents, production assistants and more.

The volunteer experience promises to be unforgettable and rewarding. Volunteers will feel the passion and excitement of the 20 collegiate teams competing in Solar Decathlon 2013 and work side-by-side with event organizers as well as other volunteers from all over the United States and the world.

“I’ve been a part of several Solar Decathlon events as the volunteer coordinator and the experience is something people never forget,” said Mary-Lyn Chambers, Volunteer Manager for Solar Decathlon 2013 and XPO. “It’s why we have volunteers traveling from as far away as China and Columbia and returning to volunteer in their second or even third Solar Decathlon.”

To sign up now and for more information:

-          To register an individual volunteer, please visit http://www.solardecathlon.gov/volunteers.html .

-          To register a group, please contact volunteers@confluencec.com or call at 442-600-1204.

-          For more information, please visit http://www.solardecathlon.gov/volunteers.html.

-          Please print or share the attached digital flyer (Recruiting-Flyer).

Hope to see you there!


  11:02:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 644 words  
Categories: Solar Decathlon - 2013

Solar Decathlon Update - Coming Together

We spent yesterday with the great group of folks from Team USC working to re-install their solar PV system. Here’s our update.

Although the Team had the house entirely complete for the Send-off Celebration, it had to be deconstructed into its three component pieces for the trip down to Irvine.  That meant cutting open drywall and unbolting sections from each other before the three sections could be loaded onto trucks.  But it also meant that the solar array, which actually consists of four branch circuits, had to be partially disassembled since three of the four cross section boundaries. Yesterday’s task was to restore those connections in a manner that was up to code - since these houses need to pass a rigorous inspection process before being hooked up to the local “micro-grid” - and help the Team stay on track.

While next weekend the Irvine competition site will be a solar village, right now it is very much a construction zone with massive cranes in all directions manipulating the different homes into place.  Here was the view to the North from atop fluxHome:

Cranes everywhere


The view to the South featured a similar display of activity - and the Great Park’s trademark orange sphere is there in the background:

Cranes to the south


With all of that activity going on, the competition organizers were taking no chances with safety - everyone entering the competition area was required to wear hard hats, eye protection and proper foot protection.  When working on the roof - where I spent the most of my day - harnesses and fall protection gear were mandatory.  In fact, if a team member is spotted without proper safety gear, the team is docked competition points.  A powerful incentive to follow the rules and maximize safety - always a good lesson to learn.

This image shows us fully decked out in all of our safety gear, working on restoring one of the branch circuit connections:

Velvet & Jim working on fluxHome


As you can probably tell, it was a beautiful day to be working on a solar project, particularly an inspiring gig like USC’s fluxHome.  Here’s a view of the roof yesterday:

Roof view from fluxHome at Solar Decathlon site


In the foreground you see the massive, automated skylight that forms the aperture for the “solar chimney” that is an integral part of the home’s systems.   Behind the skylight is a portion of the solar array.

Support Team USC

It is a privilege to be a part of the Solar Decathlon - but for the teams involved it is also a massive fund raising project and success, or failure, can be tied to that aspect as much as a great design.  In fact we learned yesterday that one of the teams from Virginia had to drop out of the contest because they couldn’t raise enough money to complete their design and then ship it to California.  So sad to think that two years worth of hard work went down the drain because they fell short on their fund raising.  (As they said in The Right Stuff, “No bucks, no Buck Rogers.")

While Team USC has not suffered such a depressing fate, they could still use your support.  So if you would be interested in contributing to the team, you can jump over to their Support page and make a donation.

A Little Help from Their Friends…

Finally, while we were taking a break on the ground, we came across a film team that was documenting the Team’s progress and they told us about this video that was shot while we were doing the initial installation.  The entire video is well worth watching as it documents the efforts of the four teams from California that are competing this year.  But we have to admit, we are partial to the section that begins around the 35 minute mark - and stick around for the happy conclusion after the break!

Best of luck to all the schools competing, and especially to Team USC - Fight On!


  07:25:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 323 words  
Categories: Residential Solar, Solar Decathlon - 2013

Solar Decathlon 2013 - Right Around the Corner

The 2013 Solar Decathlon is right around the corner with the Opening Weekend October 3-6 at Irvine’s Great Park.  As readers of this blog know, we have been assisting Team USC (Fight ON!) with the solar aspects of their entry and we will be going down to Irvine on Wednesday (tomorrow!) to assist in reconnecting the array.

On Monday, as teams from all across the country and around the world converged at the competition site, USC team member Evyn Larson and facutly coach Gary Paige, were interviewed by KQED for the California report.  Here’s the tape:

Just before the team took the house apart and shipped it to Irvine, they gathered with their supporters last week on the USC campus for a send-off celebration.  Here are some pics that we got of the crowds touring fluxHome…

Evyn & Jason


Team leaders Evyn Larson and Jason Kang share the stage before the start of the send-off celebration.


fluxHome interior looking toward the kitchen


Interior view of fluxHome looking toward the kitchen.  That is Gary on the left talking on the cell phone - no doubt trying to make sure that some still missing piece of equipment arrives in time.

Speaking of equipment, the equipment room certainly became a lot more crowded than it was when we were doing our install!

Crowded equipment room


Fortunately, the supremely-talented Velvet was able to route much of our conduit on the back side of that wall, leaving critical wall space for other components.  Good planning!

In-kind sponsors made it happen


There can be no doubt that no project like this can be completed without the help of many.  Above is a partial listing of in-kind sponsors and Run on Sun is proud to be featured prominently on that list.  (That’s us just to the right of Enphase - click the image to see the full list.)

And of course, no gig at USC would be complete without the Band…

The USC band sets the pace


I wonder if they can get them to take a road trip to Irvine - talk about a home field advantage!

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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