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UNM Team Selected to Compete in US Department of Energy?s Solar Decathlon 2012 Collaboration with Arizona State University

January 27, 2012

In a private meeting prior to a town hall at UNM yesterday, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that The University of New Mexico, along with Arizona State University, have been selected to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013.

UNM and ASU will participate in a worldwide competition to build solar-powered, highly energy-efficient homes that combine affordability, consumer appeal and design excellence, officials said. Teams compete in 10 categories, ranging from engineering and architecture to affordability, communications and market appeal.

The team has begun a two-year process to design, construct and test their homes in two test sites before reassembling them at the Solar Decathlon 2013 competition site at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California. The team will make a specific effort to use materials and technologies that are designed and manufactured by companies in the Southwest region.

“We are thrilled to have been chosen to compete along with ASU to participate in the Solar Decathlon,” said Catalin Roman, dean of the UNM School of Engineering. “The Decathlon is a great opportunity to combine UNM expertise in renewable energy, offer students invaluable real-world experiences, and continue our collaborations throughout UNM and with ASU.”

The UNM team consists of students and faculty from the UNM School of Engineering, the School of Architecture and Planning, and the Sustainability Studies Program in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The team will be able to make use of the research and education resources of the ASU-based Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST) Engineering Research Center (a national center supported by the DOE and the National Science Foundation) in which UNM is a key partner. QESST is providing a staging ground for major innovations in solar energy devices and systems in seeking to help the nation meet the challenges of harnessing solar power in economically viable and sustainable ways.

The Decathlon project is directed by Olga Lavrova, assistant professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering at UNM and Matt Fraser, associate professor and QESST ERC co-director. Lavrova headed UNM’s student-design solar car project that competed in the 2011 Indy 500 pre-race celebration and the participation of her photovoltaic class in the New Mexico Solar Energy Association passive solar home design contest. She is also part of a UNM team researching the interface between buildings, distributed power generation, and the power grid.


The UNM School of Engineering faculty team consists of Olga Lavrova; Luke Lester, Interim Chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department; Andrea Mammoli, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering;  and Ganesh Balakrishnan, Assistant Professor in the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department.

Also from UNM are Bruce Milne, director of Sustainability Studies in the School of Arts and Sciences, and Kristina Yu, assistant professor in the School of Architecture and Planning.

UNM students participating in the Solar Decathlon are Athena Christodoulou, Orlando Gutierrez, Somayeh Imani, Orlando Leone, Nassim Rahimi, Orlando Romero, and Santiago Sena.

Fraser leads the ASU faculty team comprised of QESST ERC director Christiana Honsberg; associate research professor Stuart Bowden; and Jenefer Husman, ERC education co-director.

“Our students will have a unique opportunity to participate internationally in practical and cutting-edge renewable technologies,” said Lavrova. “The Decathlon will also foster economic development in solar technologies and related industries in the Southwest and educate the public on sustainable infrastructure.”

To learn more about Solar Decathlon 2013 and the universities and college teams selected to compete, see the Energy.Gov website at: