EDITORIAL: UNLV team shines at Solar Decathlon

That UNLV students were selected to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon against teams from elite private institutions such as Stanford University, the University of Southern California and the California Institute of Technology was an accomplishment by itself.

Then UNLV went and beat them all.

UNLV was the top American finisher in the biennial competition, which challenges college teams to build solar-powered homes that produce at least as much energy as they use and remain attractive and affordable. UNLV took second overall behind a team from Austria’s Vienna University of Technology. The Czech Republic finished third, Stanford finished fifth, USC finished 10th and Caltech took 14th.

Austria beat UNLV by just 4.35 points, 951.9 to 947.6, the closest finish in the competition’s 11-year history.

UNLV had tried to qualify for the competition’s final judging previously, but never received one of 20 invitations before this year. The students designed and built a 754-square-foot vacation house, valued at $320,000, that uses photovoltaic panels and solar-thermal collectors and can function off the grid. Homes were judged from Oct. 3-13 in Irvine, Calif.

“The second-place finish by UNLV’s DesertSol house is remarkable for a first-time entrant. … After two years of design and hard work, they had a lot to prove, and they did,” said Richard King, the competition’s director.

“We certainly surprised a few people outside our region and outside our university,” UNLV architecture professor Eric Weber, who oversaw the project, told the Review-Journal’s Kristy Totten. “We know we have good people, but now others do.”

The house will be put on display at Springs Preserve.

Performances like this put UNLV’s rising academic programs on the map. The university is attracting and graduating students of ever-higher caliber, making its degrees more and more valuable. The skills these students used in the contest translate to jobs in the architecture, engineering and construction fields.

Congratulations to UNLV’s Solar Decathlon team for its well-deserved recognition.

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