University of Calgary

Solar Decathlon bid launched

Calgary post-secondaries collaborate on
international contest to build solar house

By Mark Lowey

The University of Calgary has partnered with SAIT Polytechnic and Mount Royal College on the first project of its kind to build a completely solar-powered home for a high-profile international competition.

Joined by students from all three schools, the presidents of Mount Royal College, SAIT Polytechnic, and the University of Calgary signed an agreement on Sept. 24, officially launching the Alberta Solar Decathlon Project. It is the first student-led, collaborative, energy and environment project involving the three post-secondary institutions.

We want to create a legacy in Alberta,” said Mark Blackwell, co-chair of the project and a second-year student in the Haskayne School of Business. “A key goal of this project is to inform and educate the public on how solar technologies can be readily and affordably integrated into housing development.”

The students aim to become the first-ever western Canadian team to enter the 2009 Solar Decathlon competition, in which 20 teams of university and college students from around the world are chosen to design, build and operate the most energy-efficient solar-powered home. Sponsored mainly by the U.S. Department of Energy, the competition takes place every two years on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and attracts thousands of visitors and widespread media attention.

“Teams involved in the Solar Decathlon get invaluable hands-on experience, not just in the design and engineering aspects of building their solar home, but in business management, fundraising, marketing, communications and logistics,” said U of C President Harvey Weingarten.

New knowledge created by the students over the next two years will be integrated into academic programs in the future, said Irene Lewis, president and CEO of SAIT Polytechnic. “Theories will be practically applied as students design and build this solar-powered house.”

dded Mount Royal College President David Marshall: “This project is a great example of pulling together all of our strengths and combining them with the strengths at other institutions to create something truly innovative.”

The Alberta Solar Decathlon Project has already attracted more than $18,000 in seed funding, including $11,300 from the Shell Experiential Energy Learning program and a $7,000 contribution from Alberta Advanced Education and Technology. Students are gearing up to approach other potential private- and public-sector partners for the ambitious two-year project, which has a budget of about $900,000.

The Alberta Solar Decathlon team also unveiled its conceptual design for the home at the launch. It features state-of-the-art solar photovoltaic (solar electric) technology with a unique design incorporating the “elements” of wood, water, stone and light—reflecting Alberta’s connections to the land.

The team will submit its proposal by the end of this year to enter the 2009 competition. Successful entrants are awarded more than $100,000 over two years by the contest organizers.