CU's Solar House Profiled By Discovery

It’s been almost two months since the University of Colorado Solar Decathlon team, (profiled in the Westword feature “Partly Sunny,” on November 1), returned from the international competition in D.C. only to learn that the house they had built was not immediately welcome at their school. It was going to cost the already over-budget project too much to crane the house’s pieces back together at its planned display spot on campus. Thus, at the last minute, students had to divert the house to the McStain Neighborhoods lot in Westminster where it was built.

Since then, the culmination of the two-year, exhaustive volunteer project has been sitting disassembled. On Tuesday, students plan to finally move their house near CU’s research park at 30th Street and Colorado Avenue. Project manager Chad Corbin is happy to see the house get a home, but says bureaucratic delays have caused them to have to move the house at the worst possible time. “We’ve been extremely frustrated,” he says. “The delays have pushed everything back to a bad time of year when it’s cold, snow is on the ground, all the students are trying to finish up their semester, and we’re getting kicked off of our lot because McStain needs to use it. It comes down to [the university’s] concern for the expense of the project and lack of concern for the people involved, it seems.”

And because the house is not on the main campus, tours will be a little more difficult logistically. Corbin says anyone who wants to see the solar house should check the team’s web page,, for days and times starting next semester. It will stay on campus for about six months. Later, the house will be expanded to 2100 square feet and put on permanent display by its owner – Xcel Energy.

But first, you can get a sneak peak of the house Monday night on the Discovery Home Channel/Planet Green network. Solar Showdown will air at 6 p.m., again at 9 p.m., and three more times on Tuesday, on the digital cable network.

For the hour-long program, producer Scott DeGraw followed CU, as well as Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Maryland through the October solar competition, as well as the intensive four-month building period leading up to the competition. It should be an in-depth look at the students’ blood, sweat and tears. While following the competition myself, one member of the Discovery crew told me he had shot over 200 hours of footage – just in D.C.

Corbin says the team is excited to see the show, but finding a college student who has a cable package expansive enough to carry that channel has been a challenge.

He’s still looking. -- Jessica Centers

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Sean Cronin