While Germany deserves the props that come with its number one ranking, the real winner at the Solar Decathlon held in Washington, DC, is solar power itself. Twenty competitors from University teams in the US, Canada and Europe built architectually bold and energy efficient houses, and set them up on the National Mall. It was a showcase for the schools and nations represented, but the sun (while remaining 93 million miles away) was the star of the show. (MJ policy: one pun allowed per post.)
But, you really should check out the photos of the buildings -- they're extraordinary, even without taking their solar super-powers into account.
The houses were judged on everything from their home entertainment systems to market viability. In the end, however, Germany beat out Illinois (#2) and Team California (#3) by collecting the most points on net-metering -- the amount of power generated by the house to meet its own needs and what it produces above what it consumes.
It's this ability, and, critically, the regulatory policies that allow customers to sell excess power back to their utility companies, that will help solar power replace our dependence on fossil fules.
So, a big congrats to the DOE, which hosted the Solar Decathlon, and to all the teams taking part. Thanks for showing us what the future could look like.
(I write more about the German house here.)