I had planned to come to Cerritos this morning armed with lots of brochures and thoughts about the Solar Decathlon to share with you all from my quick visit last Thursday, on opening day for the public. Failing that, here are some highlights for your planning.
Parking: It is definitely $10 per car, no in/out, no refunds. And the parking is FAR from the houses. You enter on Trabuco and then you drive East on the base, over some dirt road in places, to a huge runway parking lot/strip. Since the parking is so far from the houses, they have shuttles. These are huge, new, air conditioned, comfortable white tour buses. The shuttle trip actually takes 10 or 15 minutes.
Activities: There is less to do this year than there was at the 2013 Decathlon. There is no Expo building full of vendors and swag giveaways. There is no EV driving test track. There is no electric bike demo track.
However, there are 14 solar houses laid out on a grid pattern instead of in two straight lines. There are info tents from the three sponsors: Edison, Schneider Electric and Wells Fargo. There are a lot of food trucks and a large covered, shaded tent with lots of seats where you can rest, eat and cool off. There are water stations at intervals. The usual attractions at the Great Park are pretty close walking distance.
Gary told me that some of you want recommendations for which houses to visit to make the best use of your time. First of all, I'd go to http://www.solardecathlon.gov
and read and watch the 3D walk-through videos of each house to see what grabs your interest.
I visited 4 houses on my one hour visit (but remember that it was opening Thursday at 11am, so crowds were light).
The Team Orange County house is interesting for several reasons.
A) The team is from four Orange County schools, so there's local interest.
B) They claim to be charging their EV directly with DC from their solar array using a special inverter from Princeton Power Systems. This raises lots of interesting technical questions.
C) The house is using a prototype low energy use clothes dryer that uses solar-warmed water as the heat source. The inventor is onsite to tell about the product, and he's quite a trip.
D) The house has a 3D printer lab/ workshop onsite, and they've used the printer to make some decor.
E) The house has two private outdoor showers.
F) The house seems to be much larger inside than some of the other houses.
G) There is a small studio apartment included as well.
The Stevens Institute house is interesting because it's designed to withstand flooding from global warming without being raised 10 feet above the ground. The ideas for sealing the house from flood surge are interesting. This team is currently leading in points earned, and I recall that they were a strong contender in 2013.
The Texas/Germany team house didn't really grab my imagination, and I don't recall much about it except that there are cute German girls wearing cowboy hats.
The Buffalo NY, team house was attractive in that it has high walls and roofs of glass, which are beautiful, and which enhance the ability to do home vegetable gardening, even in upstate NY winters.
As for houses that I'm excited to see next time I visit, I'm interested in the Sacramento State house because of its overall esthetic design and they are apparently using transparent solar cells as windows. I'm also interested in the West VA/Rome Italy team house, really because of the sculptural arch design that they've used for the solar canopy.
I suggest that as some of us visit on individual days coming up, that we post here with thoughts and recommendations for what to see and what to not waste your time on.