Every two years, university teams converge on Washington, D.C., and transform the National Mall into a solar village of homes that showcase innovation in energy creation and efficiency, inspire the next generation of green architects and engineers, and spread the sustainability message to an eager public. The 20 homes in the 2009 Solar Decathlon, a Department of Energy–sponsored event held Oct. 8–18, were self-sustaining, combining rooftop-mounted and building-integrated photovoltaics and solar thermal systems with passive solar design features, energy-efficient building envelopes and products, and high-performance construction. The teams also incorporated water conservation, resource-efficient products, and locally obtained materials, and focused on indoor air quality, occupant comfort, and market feasibility.

As in years past, the 2009 competition was a proving ground for a number of new energy-generating technologies, including introductions from manufacturers and proprietary designs by the students themselves. Here are three of those innovations. For more on all the homes in the 2009 competition, visit ecohomemagazine.com and search “Decathlon.” —Katy Tomasulo; additional reporting by Nigel F. Maynard