4 O.C. colleges to participate in Solar Decathlon

UC Irvine is among four Orange County campuses chosen to participate in the 2015 Solar Decathlon hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The event, to be held in fall 2015 at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, will have participants "designing and building the best energy-efficient, drought-resistant homes they can," according to a UCI news release.

It will be a two-year effort, culminating in free tours and testing of the houses at the Great Park competition site.

In addition to UCI, "Team Orange" comprises Chapman University in Orange, Saddleback College in Mission Viejo and Irvine Valley College. The team plans to design a house inspired by the "sun-loving, drought-resistant" California poppy.

"It's a dream come true, really, to be picked," Alex McDonald, a 29-year-old UCI mechanical engineering and urban planning student, said in a prepared statement.

"I'm thrilled that Team Orange has been selected to compete in this world-class event," Gregory Washington, dean of UC Irvine's Henry Samueli School of Engineering, said in a prepared statement.

Washington, a leader in the Orange County effort, has a research specialty in "smart" materials that harvest energy, according to a news release.

"We and our partners will show California and the nation that our campuses and Orange County lead the way on innovative, affordable solar power and other clean-energy advances," Washington added. "The home team can definitely win."

During a visit to the UCI campus Thursday, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman announced the 2015 decathlon location and 20 total participating campuses, which will aim to make their homes not only energy-efficient but also affordable and innovative.

The first five decathlons, started in 2002, were held at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. In 2013, the Great Park hosted the event.

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