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Austrian students win Solar Decathlon in OC

Team Austria's house won first place in the Solar Decathlon at Great Park in Irvine
Team Austria's house won first place in the Solar Decathlon at Great Park in Irvine
Brian Watt/KPCC
Team Austria's house won first place in the Solar Decathlon at Great Park in Irvine
The solar powered home designed by USC students placed tenth in the Solar Decathlon
Brian Watt/KPCC


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A group of college students from Austria took first place Saturday in a solar design competition sponsored by the U. S. Department of Energy in Orange County's Great Park.

Officials called it the closest competition since the biannual competition known as the Solar Decathlon began in 2002. This year's event was the first held outside Washington D.C.

The solar-powered home designed and built by students from the Vienna University of Technology beat out the second-place team from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.  Czech Technical University of the Czech Republic placed third.  A team from USC finished 10th.

"We started out with a simple, elegant Austrian vacation home, and have somehow ended up with a James-Bond-themed love chalet," mechanical engineering student Philipp Klebert said on behalf of the victorious Austrian team.  "So I think overall, this competition was a success. "

For the past two years, 19 teams from the U.S. and abroad have designed and  built fully functional solar-powered houses.  They reconstructed the homes at Great Park, and the prototypes have been on display for the past two weeks.  

The ten categories of the decathlon included architecture, market appeal, engineering and affordability. Entries were also judged on energy balance, appliances, and hot water systems. Click here for a list of the winners in each category.

Along with USC, other California entrants were teams from Stanford, Santa Clara University, and a combination of students from the Southern California Institute of Architecture and CalTech. Stanford placed fifth.  

The public is invited to tour the prototype homes until 7 p.m. Saturday and between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday.