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Last year’s battle

Teams from 20 universities have spent the summer building enough homes for an entire solar village. The off-grid, self-powering homes will be on display for 10 days in October on the National Mall in Washington D.C., competing in the Department of Energy’s 2007 Solar Decathlon.

The point of the competition is not to create new building technologies. Entrants have to use commercially available products to prove that their sun-powered home can be commercially reproduced. For Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) university with its access to super-efficienct, NASA-grade solar panels, that was a disadvantage.

A group from MIT built an off-grid, solar-powered home, called MIT Solar 7, drawing in students and advisers with expertise in everything from electrical storage to mechanical engineering. It’s part of an MIT-wide commitment to energy-related research to address climate change.

The team hopes to sell off its creation as a way to fund MIT’s entry in the next Solar Decathlon competition in two years. Realtors have expressed interest. The Solar Decathlon is a competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in partnership with its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The American Institute of Architects (AIA), American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), BP, and Sprint are partnering with DOE as title sponsors.

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