Solar Decathlon Update from Dean Mary Rezac

In January 2016, the Solar Decathlon 2017 competition announced Washington State University as one of 16 international collegiate teams selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to design, construct, and test a solar-powered house that is affordable, innovative, and highly energy-efficient. Once built, each team would transport its entry to Denver, Colorado, where it would be displayed in the October 2017 competition.

It is with a sad heart that I inform you that WSU will not be among the 10 remaining teams that are transporting their entries to Denver.

The Solar Decathlon is a complex, challenging event, where teams compete in 10 rigorous contests—ranging from architecture and engineering, to energy-efficiency performance. It requires each team to meet high technical safety and performance standards and aggressive construction schedules.

Our team aimed high. We are building a clubhouse and resident home to demonstrate our vision of what an energy-efficient community could look like, one that manages collected sunlight and rainwater, features smart home technology for mobile-device control, and uses machine learning to make energy conservation decisions and provide energy saving recommendations to its residents.

Unfortunately, although we remain committed to turning our vision into reality, the time left before the start of the competition is not sufficient enough for us to field an entry that meets the high standards we set for ourselves.  Were we to suspend construction activities now to attend the competition, we feel that we would be unable to represent you, our sponsors, our friends, and our Cougar family to the utmost of our ability.

Everyone on our EnCity Solar Decathlon Team, including our students, faculty, staff, volunteers, and sponsors, have worked extremely hard during this incredible shared experience.  I am especially impressed by the efforts of our 50+ students – from 22 degree majors – who have devoted enormous amounts of their time, creativity, and effusive energy to this multi-disciplinary competition, where they gained hands-on experience in developing next-generation water and energy conservation strategies, innovative architectural and engineering design, clean energy systems, and creative marketing techniques.  They all should be proud of their accomplishments.

I want to thank our many donors, industry partners, staff, faculty, and volunteers who have contributed funding, materials, expertise, and time to the project. Without their support, our students could never have experienced this incredible learning opportunity.

While we won’t be travelling to Denver, this is not the end of the journey for WSU’s Solar Decathlon team. We will complete our Solar Decathlon home and clubhouse and look forward to showcasing this work, together with the many innovations our students have developed, and celebrating with our supporters in the future.

Thank you again for your support,


Mary Rezac, Dean
Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture