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Democrats Recognize the Next Generation of Energy Efficiency Innovators

Nov 2, 2005
Press Release

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science today heard from energy innovators at both the university and Federal levels about what it will take to harness the power of the sun and progress toward the solar and efficiency technologies of the future.

Hearing participants shared what they learned from their involvement in the recently completed 2005 Solar Decathlon, which was held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., last month.

Witnesses at the Energy Subcommittee hearing November 2, 2005

The Solar Decathlon was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and featured a contest in which students from major universities around the country demonstrated houses of their own design featuring solar energy production technologies and innovative energy conservation features. 

Eighteen decathlon teams designed houses that were judged on ten attributes including the living and operating environments as well as the benefits of the technology.  The event, designed to stimulate innovation and inspire today's students to pursue careers in science, technology and engineering fields, was first held on the Mall in 2002.

Rep Mike Honda (D-CA), Ranking Democrat"I'm the kind of person who drives a hybrid car and wants to keep the battery charged with a solar cell when I don't drive it for a while," stated Energy Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA).  "But as a nation, we have not followed that same line of thinking."

The Committee heard from witnesses - both Federal agency representatives and students from university teams - about their experiences in the planning, design, development, construction and set-up for the competition on the Mall.

"We may have fallen behind other nations, such as Germany and Japan, which saw solar installation increase as a result of meaningful incentive programs, but all is not lost," added Rep. Honda.  "A quick glance at a solar resource map shows that most of the U.S. has far greater potential for solar power than Germany, a nation that has succeeded in bringing solar along with the proper incentives.  This means that we have tremendous growth potential for solar energy.  My own state of California is taking the lead, with over 100 MW of installed grid capacity to date."

"It has taken a commitment to get to this point, though, because a typical home photovoltaic system is not cheap to purchase and install.  If you do the math to figure out how much the electricity costs, it turns out that it is still higher than the typical retail cost for electricity," continued Rep. Honda.  "These enterprising students understand this.  Hearing from them today and learning of their achievements gives me great hope for the future."

The University of Colorado, Denver and Boulder, successfully defended their championship and took first place in the 2005 event.  Cornell University was the second place team, and California Polytechnic State University finished third.

Jeff Lyng, University of Colorado
Jeff Lyng

"I'm very proud of the accomplishments of all the students we've heard from today and especially proud of the University of Colorado team - represented today by Jeff Lyng - for designing and building the winning entry. CU's win is all the more notable because it is their second, after also winning the first competition in 2002," stated fellow Coloradan and Science Committee Member Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO).

"As the CU team's project manager and founder of the University of Colorado Renewable Energy Club, Jeff is an excellent spokesman for CU and for sustainable living. But he didn't come to Washington to boast about CU's win; rather, he came to tell the story of a new generation of 'solar patriots,' and to light the fire under all of us," concluded Rep. Udall.  "As Jeff pointed out in his testimony, 'Each Solar Decathlete is doing their part in keeping the candle lit for solar energy. It is now time for members of this committee and all Members of Congress to lead the way in carrying the torch.' We should heed his call."

109th Congress