Those interested in exploring the potential and reality of sunshine in a clean energy future have a plethora of things to do in Washington, DC, in the coming weeks.
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As the sun bursts through weeks of massive rain, the Washington, DC, area is entering into several hot solar weeks.

1. The Washington Redskins and NRG Energy are holding a press conference 15 September to inaugurate FedEx Field's solar panel installation.

2. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) will hold a Solar Summit shortly after the FedEx press conference, the afternoon of 15 September, that will include a range of perspectives on solar power possibilities from the Department of Energy to the Arizona Cardinals to the U.S. Marine Corps.

3. Next week, the bi-annual Solar Decathlon opens at West Potomac Park (running from 23 September through 2 October). (Photo to right is the Decathlon's "runway" from just a few days ago.)

4. And, the annual DC-area Solar Homes Tour will overlap with Solar Decathlon the weekend of 1-2 October.

Four hot solar items worth knowing about and exploring further.

FEDEX Field Installation

NRG Energy has put in three different types of solar panels, some 8000 in total with a 2 megawatt capacity, up in Redskins parking lots. Per the NRG press release,

The NRG solar installation at FedExField is capable of meeting the stadium's power needs on non-game days and providing up to 20% of the needed electricity on game days - the equivalent of providing 300 homes with energy for a full year. By using solar power technologies, the Redskins and NRG are keeping 1,780 metric tons of carbon out of the atmosphere - the equivalent of replacing 349 vehicles with gasoline engines with zero emission electric vehicles.

Interestingly, NRG might actually be understating the impact. From one discussion of improving automobile gas mileage:

It's also good to remember that once a car is cool inside, it takes a lot less energy to keep it cool. Result: Some of the best AC-related mileage boosting you can do occurs when the car's not moving. That is, when it's hot, park in the shade.

By providing shaded spaces, at least on hot and sunny days, there will be additional fuel savings as shaded cars' air conditioners won't have to work as hard. (Well, there is always the question of how much harder the heaters will work come a December game but the relative strength of September vs December sun suggests that the savings on air conditioning will outweigh the energy used to heat the slightly colder cars.)

Kudoes to Mitch Snyder and the Redskins for taking this step forward. As NRG Energy put it

The 8,000 panel installation -- and the power it generates -- demonstrates the reality of renewable energy solutions and options available in the U.S. now. In addition, the new design include several other solar features as well as 10 electric vehicle charging stations. The installation is designed to engage fans, educate the public and showcase the use of renewable energy.

Per the Redskins,

An NRG-branded entry plaza at Gate A will inform fans about renewable energy and showcase clean energy technologies. The installation will include translucent solar panels, sculptures featuring thin film solar technology and 10 electric vehicle charging stations from NRG's eVgocharging network.

"Our partnership with NRG will add to the fans' game day experience at FedExField and offers a unique example of how solar energy installations can do more than generate power," said Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins. "NRG's expertise and vision are a great match for us and we are excited to be part of this effort that will reduce our environmental impact and offer our fans another unique experience."

In one of her office's first major events since she was shot, Congresswoman Giffords' office will host a half-day long look at solar power from a range of perspectives on the Hill (in House Visitor Center 215). As the Summit's website explains,

The Giffords Solar Summit will feature perspectives on the state of solar energy from federal and Arizona officials as well as a U.S. Marine Corps colonel and solar industry leaders and advocates, including Michael Bidwill, the president of the Arizona Cardinals and former chairman of the board for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. Bidwill has developed and promoted tax and regulatory policies aimed at growing the solar industry in Arizona.

The Giffords Solar Summit will be broadcast, live, online from 1 through 3:30 pm, 15 September.

Solar Decathlon

Simply put, the Solar Decathlon is a must-do Energy COOL event for those who can make it (without burning too much carbon dioxide to get there ...).

This is the fifth (first in 2002) Solar Decathlon and it will have 20 unversity teams (photo is of the University of Tennessee's Living Light Solar Decathlon team and house) from around the world to compete across ten categories.

The Solar Decathlon is, to say the least, a serious competition. And, one of the great things about the competition is that it has become (much) harder with each one to lay out, with confidence, who will be at the top (and, well, bottom) of the leader board at the end of the decathlon. In 2009, everything single house had something (generally some things) about it that set it apart and 'above' the others. (See, German Solar Rides Power Surge to a Win for a discussion of the winning house in 2009 and links to many other Get Energy Smart! NOW! posts on The Solar Decathlon(s).)

More important about the 'competition' is the reality that each of these teams, and their 20 homes, will present very tangible examples of cost-effective paths to extremely beautiful 'off-the-grid' living. And, this 20 home 'village' provides a window on the sorts of technologies and approaches that can be applied, now, to improve America's homes via better design, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.

Again, this is 'must see' / 'must do' event if you are in the area. Take time out of your schedules to get there ... you won't regret the time.

Solar Homes Tour

Every year, in communities across the country, homeowners open their solar-powered homes to visitors and demonstrate that these technologies work -- in everyday homes for every day home life.

The 2011 DC-area tour has over 50 homes available to visit with a range of solar and energy efficiency elements. (Be careful, most homes are available to visit on just one of the days.) The Saturday tour includes this home:

This 1958 split-level home has been updated with a range of EE/RE (energy efficiency / renewable energy) measures. The renewable energy elements include solar (5 kw solar pv system, solar hot water (two panels, 120 gallon storage tank), solar light tubes, solar cone for composting) and a high-efficiency fireplace insert.

A concluding thought ...

These events make for some Hot Solar weeks in the DC area. One thought as to how the sunshine could be even hotter: President Obama climbing with White House reporters to the roof to flip the switch on its solar panels. In any event, those interested in exploring the potential and reality of sunshine in a clean energy future have a plethora of things to do in Washington, DC, in the coming weeks.

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