DOE Celebrates 20th Annual Solar Decathlon for Next-Generation Clean Energy Buildings

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced the winners of the 20th annual Solar Decathlon®, DOE’s longest-tenured student competition that has challenged 40,000 students across the world to use the latest technologies to design and build the most sustainable buildings possible. Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Arizona won this year’s Design Challenge for residential and commercial building grand prizes, respectively. 

“For twenty years, DOE’s Solar Decathlon has harnessed the ingenuity and enthusiasm of America’s students to generate cutting-edge climate solutions,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The innovative building designs developed by this year’s competitors demonstrate how clean energy technologies can be applied to households across the country, including slashing costs for American families, modernizing energy infrastructure, and decarbonizing the building sector.” 

Watch Secretary Granholm’s Remarks at the Solar Decathlon. 

Additionally,14 Build Challenge teams each earned $50,000 in prize funding to build and exhibit their ground-breaking, zero energy buildings in their home communities next spring, where they will compete for contest and grand prizes in April 2023. Seven more Build Challenge teams are still in the running for the $50,000 in funding and will have the next two months to perfect their designs and resubmit to the competition.

Fifty-four Design Challenge finalist teams from 37 collegiate institutions showcased their high-performance, low-carbon building designs in one of six divisions at the Solar Decathlon Competition Event held April 22-24, 2022, at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. Winners include: 

  • The Georgia Institute of Technology team is the Residential Grand Winner for their design to retrofit a neglected, 102-year-old house in the English Avenue neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia. The students turned it into a net-positive structure built with materials that naturally absorb carbon. The team also placed first in the Retrofit Division, a new division for the 2022 Design Challenge. 
  • The University of Arizona team is the Commercial Grand Winner for their multifamily building design that serves low-income and multigenerational families. It integrated hundreds of organic photovoltaic panels, using them to shade a 490,000 square-foot, mixed-use building while keeping accessibility in mind. 
  • Alumnus Alex McDonald and Faculty Advisor Joseph Wheeler won Richard King Awards for their contributions to the transition to a clean energy economy. Richard King founded DOE’s Solar Decathlon at in 2000. 

Other competitors were also recognized for designing exceptional buildings of different types, winning first, second, and third-place awards for new construction, retrofits, attached housing, multifamily housing, office buildings, and schools. See the full list of this year’s Solar Decathlon winners. 

Over 40,000 students around the world have worked together to build homes, careers, and even families through DOE’s Solar Decathlon. The competition’s hands-on experience provides the skills, experience, and credentials young professionals need to thrive in energy efficiency jobs and fulfill the home performance industry’s top need: more qualified workers. 

Explore the Infographic highlighting Solar Decathlon’s 20 years of innovation. 

Watch the 20th Anniversary Video featuring Solar Decathlon’s 20 years of achievements.  

Applications for the Solar Decathlon 2023 Design Challenge will open this summer, and the 2023 Build Challenge teams will now begin construction and will exhibit their houses next spring.  Additional details are available on the Solar Decathlon website. 

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