Competitors at the fourth annual National Solar Decathlon on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Oct. 8–18, 2009, received aid from local electrical apprentices and licensed electricians. The Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee’s (JATC) team of experienced professionals provided the 20 teams with electrical services on an as-needed basis.

John E. Kelly & Sons Electrical Construction Inc. of Upper Marlboro, Md., provided all wiring and interconnection of the 20 solar homes from Oct. 1–5. The company ensured that all structures were compliant with national and local electrical codes. John E. Kelly workers also connected the homes to a microgrid that both pulled power from the local electrical utility, Pepco, as needed and provided excess power that the homes generated back to the utility.

The JATC oversees education and training of electrical and telecommunications apprentices in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area. Part of its training includes renewable-energy sources.

“Our involvement in the decathlon is a win-win. The competitors get the electrical help they need, and our students get real world experience working with solar systems,” said Sean Myers, director of special projects at the JATC.

The JATC valued its contribution of manpower to the 2009 Solar Decathlon at $16,000–$20,000.

The homes were open to the public from Oct. 9–13 and 15–18. More than 800 students from the United States, Canada, Spain and Germany started designing and building these homes after the teams were selected two years ago. Students had to perform everyday tasks, such as cooking, doing the laundry and washing dishes, to demonstrate the energy efficiency of their homes.

The aid from professional electricians proved to be an invaluable learning experience for all the students. On Oct. 18, Solar Decathlon administrators announced that Team Germany from the Technische Universität Darmstadt was the overall winner. The surface of Team Germany’s two-story cube-like house is covered with solar cells that perform even in cloudy weather.

The Department of Energy is the primary sponsor of the 2009 Solar Decathlon, which also is sponsored and managed by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.