Home to Disneyland, Orange County, Calif., has been drawing tourists for decades, and soon, it will be drawing solar enthusiasts from around the world. U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu has unveiled The Orange County Great Park in Irvine as the location of the department’s Solar Decathlon 2013.

The Solar Decathlon is a competition where 20 college teams from around the world design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. The competition has been held since 2002. But the biennial contest has always been held at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. For the 2013 competition, organizers decided to reach a new audience.

solar decathlon

image via U.S. Department of Energy

Located between Los Angeles and San Diego on the grounds of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, the Orange County Great Parkfeatures novelties like a tethered helium balloon that rises 400 feet in the air, a Carousel, Farm + Food Lab, Kids Rock Playground and the Walkable Timeline. A community garden is slated to be added this year. In addition, the park has flexible space for the homes to be set up and ample visitor parking, according to DOE, which also believes that with direct freeway and rail access and generally favorable weather conditions, the park will also ensure that residents across Southern California have an opportunity to experience the Solar Decathlon.

In addition to a new location, Secretary Chu also announced the 20 college team who will be competing in the 2013 competition. The teams have two years to design, construct and test their homes before reassembling them at the Solar Decathlon 2013 competition site.  The teams will compete in 10 different categories including best architecture and engineering and energy production for heating and cooling.

2013 solar decathlon orange county

image via U.S. Department of Energy

“As President Obama made clear in the State of the Union address this week, we need to ensure that the next generation of America’s architects, engineers and entrepreneurs have the hands-on experience and training they need to lead our nation’s clean energy future,” Secretary Chu said in a statement.  “The Solar Decathlon will unleash the ingenuity, creativity and drive from these talented students to demonstrate new ideas for how families and businesses can reduce energy use and save money with clean energy products and efficient building design.”

The following teams have been chosen to take part in the 2013 Solar Decathlon:

  • Arizona State University (Tempe, Ariz.) and the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque, N.M.)
  • Czech Technical University (Prague, Czech Republic)
  • Hampton University (Hampton, Va.) and Old Dominion University (Norfolk, Va.)
  • Middlebury College (Middlebury, Vt.)
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, Mo.)
  • Norwich University (Northfield, Vt.)
  • Queens University, Carleton University, and Algonquin College (Ontario, Canada)
  • Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, Calif.)
  • Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology (Los Angeles)
  • Stanford University (Palo Alto, Calif.)
  • Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, N.J.)
  • Catholic University of America, George Washington University, and American University (Washington, D.C.)
  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.)
  • University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College (El Paso, Texas)
  • University of Calgary (Alberta, Canada)
  • University of Louisville (Louisville, Ky.), Ball State University (Muncie, Ind.) and University of Kentucky (Lexington, Ky.)
  • University of Nevada Las Vegas
  • University of Southern California (Los Angeles)
  • Vienna University of Technology (Vienna, Austria)
  • West Virginia University (Morgantown, W. Va.)