Post by Julie Turkewitz, Campus Progress

Twenty university teams descended on the National Mall last week for the fourth Solar Decathlon, sponsored by the Department of Energy, which is an international competition designed to build the most energy efficient solar-powered houses possible.

The teams came from around the world – including Spain, Germany and Puerto Rico. Judges will rate the homes in 10 different categories, but the prize isn’t so much university bragging rights as it is the opportunity to play a key role in the future. The United States consumes about 100 quadrillion British thermals units (BTUs) of energy each year, and about 84 percent of our energy consumption is consumed through burning fossil fuels. As climate change becomes a more pressing issue, it’s critical that Americans change the way we use energy.

We need these houses now. The teams could be designing the homes of the future.

Check out the video to hear from Chip Clark, a three-time solar decathlon participant from Virginia Tech. Go to to learn more about the competition.

Visit the solar village Oct. 8-18, 2009 on the National Mall. Homes are open to the public 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Homes will be closed on Wednesday, Oct. 14.

Julie Turkewitz is a video intern at Campus Progress