CU students in solar contest holding Earth Day Celebration April 22

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Cornell University students taking part in an international competition to build a state-of-the-art solar-powered house will hold an Earth Day Celebration in the Sage Hall atrium, April 22, from 6 to 8 p.m. The celebration is free and open to the public.

Booths and posters will provide a sneak preview of the Cornell entry in the fall 2005 competition, the National Solar Decathlon. During the Earth Day event, Ithaca Mayor Carolyn Peterson and New York State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-125th) will comment on environmental policies.

At next year's competition, solar decathlon teams from universities across the United States, Canada and Europe will assemble their modular homes on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Each house must generate enough energy to operate a household, a home-based business and an electric car. The winning team will have provided the most energy-efficient and innovative design.

The first National Solar Decathlon took place in 2002, and the 2005 competition will mark Cornell's first entry in the event. On the Cornell team are about 65 undergraduate and graduate students from disciplines as diverse as engineering, business, computer science and architecture. Their house, which is still in the design stage, will contain about 800 square feet of living space and feature an energy-efficient kitchen and bathroom.

"This project represents cross-discipline collaboration at its best. The Solar Decathlon teaches students trained in different specialties how to talk to each other," said David Wax, a student in Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management. "This is teaching students how to interact in a real-world setting and how to implement solar technology in the real world."

The 2005 Solar Decathlon is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Home Depot and the American Institute of Architects.

At the Earth Day celebration, the Cornell team will feature displays about solar-powered heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems; computerized home-control systems; appliances; and architectural design. Also evident will be the student business component, which raises funds for the team. Developing better solar-powered homes could be critical in the future. The United States uses approximately 97 quads (quadrillion British Thermal Units) of energy annually, according to the DOE. The residential sector accounts for about 20.1 quads, or 21 percent of U.S. annual energy consumption. Approximately 86 percent of total annual energy use in the United States comes from burning fossil fuels -- coal, oil and natural gas -- while less than 4 percent of total energy comes from renewable sources -- biomass, geothermal, solar and wind (although not hydroelectric power).

Residential energy consumption is expected to grow by 1 percent annually through 2025, when U.S. annual energy usage is expected to reach 149 quads, which will mean an increasing dependence on foreign energy sources, particularly Middle East oil.

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