Ever wonder what it takes to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon? Over the next couple of weeks, we’re exploring how the Solar Decathlon 2013 teams’ energy-efficient, solar-powered houses went from idea to reality, and documenting some of the steps along the way in this two-year competition. Follow the series by visiting energy.gov/solar-decathlon and see if you have what it takes to be a solar decathlete.

In two weeks, collegiate teams from across the globe will converge at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California, for the final phases of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013.

For two years, these teams have worked to design and build solar-powered houses that are affordable, energy-efficient and attractive, while also testing the houses to ensure they produce as much energy as they use. In early October -- after their houses have been reassembled at the competition site -- the teams will go head-to-head in 10 contests and showcase their houses to the public, all with the hopes of being crowned the winning team.

But before the teams could even compete in the Solar Decathlon, they had to make it through a rigorous selection process. As Solar Decathlon 2011 was finishing up, more than 40 hopeful teams were already hard at work preparing their proposals, creating draft design plans and demonstrating that they could meet specific criteria necessary to take part in the two-year competition -- like being able to assemble a core team for the entire competition and supporting the competition with curriculum. For nearly two months, a panel of engineers, scientists and building experts reviewed, scored and ranked the applications before narrowing the list of competitors in half. Towards the end of January 2012, the Energy Department notified the collegiate teams that they had been selected to compete -- officially kicking off the Solar Decathlon 2013 competition.

Scroll through the slideshow above to meet the teams competing in this year’s Solar Decathlon and learn about their unique take on building comfortable and affordable solar-powered houses.

Be sure to check back tomorrow on energy.gov/solar-decathlon for more on how teams prepare for the Solar Decathlon.

Rebecca Matulka
Served as a digital communications specialist for the Energy Department.Served as a digital communications specialist for the Energy Department.
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