The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon challenges college teams from around the world to design an energy-efficient, cost effective, "future home" with curb appeal. Following it's successful selection in 2013, The Irvine Great Park was again selected as the host site for the Solar Decathlon in 2015. This year for the first time, Orange County was represented in the competition. Team Orange, a collaboration of students from UC Irvine, Chapman University, Saddleback College, and Irvine Valley College, named their entry Casa del Sol. The Advanced Power and Energy Program's (APEP) Associate Director Jack Brouwer served as the Faculty Advisor for Team Orange.
Although Team Orange took ninth place out the 17 teams overall, they placed second in the important category of Engineering. Casa Del Sol was the only home in the competition with an AC/DC biodirectional inverter made by Princeton Power Systems, which allowed for maximum energy use and storage with smart grid integration capability. The home's indoor space heating and cooling was managed by a radiant and rooftop solar thermal system. Other noteable features of the home included a 3-D printer for generating household tools or home decorations, as well as a graywater recycling system for irrigation of an aquaponic garden. Team Orange is working to secure a permanent installation site where Casa Del Sol will be used as a living laboratory to provide sustainable living education for the public.