THE VINE OCTOBER 16, 2009
Score another one for German engineering. Out on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., this week, the Energy Department has been hosting its fourth-ever Solar Decathlon—a competition among 20 designs for solar-powered houses from around the world. The houses compete across ten categories (hence "decathlon"), ranging from the amount of electricity they can feed back to the grid to the quality of parties they can host. The competition was neck-and-neck until the final day, when the German team pulled ahead thanks to the tiny, innovative solar cells they had installed not just on the roof but also the walls of their sleek, cubist abode. Those miniature panels allowed the house to outstrip the competition by generating as much as 11,000 watts.
The DOE says that the competition aimed to both promote solar R&D and dispel the notion that an eco-lifestyle had to be drab. The different designs can be seen here, and they're up on the Mall through Sunday if you're dying to take a tour.