Education News – Students want to change Alberta’s energy reputation

Alberta Solar Decathlon Project to be showcased in Washington, D.C. and at 2010 Olympics

EDMONTON (CUP) ? A solar home designed and built by Calgary students has been accepted into next months’s Solar Decathlon competition in Washington, D.C. and will be showcased at the 2010 Olympic games in Vancouver.

A team of 100 students, faculty, and staff from four different post-secondary institutions came together to work on the Alberta Solar Decathlon Project, in which they constructed a fully functional 800 square foot solar home. The team consists of students from the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) Polytechnic, and the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD).

The project manager, Matt Beck, is a graduate student in the faculty of environmental design at the University of Calgary. He said that the solar home will help to show that Alberta can be an innovator in alternative energy, not just a haven for fossil fuels.

?From an Albertan perspective, one of the real reasons that we as a team got involved in this was the opportunity to tell a different story. Everybody hears the story of Alberta as an oil and gas leader but we wanted to show that Alberta is a centre for energy excellence,? Beck said.

The collaboration between so many students from different disciplines made the project a strong reflection of real life.

?The fact that I get to sit down at table with a business student or a tradesperson from SAIT Polytechnic or an interior designer from Mount Royal or an artist from ACAD and see how they’re coming to this project . . . That’s how we work in industry,? Beck said.

The solar home took over two years to complete. In January 2009, the team learned that the house was accepted into the 2009 Solar Decathlon competition in Washington, D.C., which takes place next month.

The project chair is Mark Blackwell, an undergraduate student in the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary. He said that he was ?ecstatic? to learn that the team’s project had been accepted.

?Being the first western Canadian team to ever compete in the competition is a huge feat,? said Blackwell.

In order to personalize the house, the team incorporated Albertan style elements, such as Rundle stones from Canmore and reclaimed barn wood to highlight Alberta’s agricultural history.

?It has a very Alberta feel to it, so we’ve stuck to our heritage there. But at the same time we ensured that we’re showcasing on an international stage what Alberta’s actually doing on the alternative and emerging technology side,? Blackwell stated.

The team is going to get a chance to show off their house to a much bigger market as well?at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.

?I think it aligns perfectly with the goals and the vision of the Vancouver organizing committee,? said Blackwell. ?They have a huge focus this year on showcasing sustainability in all their operations and this house complements that vision.?

Beck commented on the importance of this Olympic showcase for creating public awareness.

?As much as the Solar Decathlon is a great opportunity to build public awareness in Washington, it is not exactly close to home. Vancouver is a lot closer to home and It’s an even bigger international stage,? Beck stated.

Both Blackwell and Beck emphasized that the goal of the project is to show consumers that they can be environmentally savvy and not sacrifice aesthetics, even in Alberta.

?we’re really excited to show people that solar power is something that can be possible here and it can look nice?It’s not just an ugly set of solar panels on a roof. It can be integrated nicely architecturally, coupled with energy efficiency, it can be market-viable,? said Beck.

The team’s progress is updated on www.solabode.ca.

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