Solar Decathlon coming to Southern California in 2013

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that its next biennial Solar Decathlon will be held over the first two weekends of October, 2013, at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California.

Launched in 2002, the event asks teams of college students to think outside the box to come up with innovative designs for incorporating solar power into modern, energy-efficient homes.

According to a DOE news release, close to two dozen teams compete every two years and work in conjunction with major corporate sponsors to make their designs a reality, and potentially come up with new building methods that can be utilized in future home construction.

"This is the perfect opportunity to get my foot in the door and go through the process of designing and realizing my interests. The opportunity to be involved allows me to put every class I've taken as a college student into use and understand what it takes to design a truly beautiful and meaningful building," University of Arizona undergrad John Gribbs, who is on one of the competing teams, said in a statement to

Since the first Solar Decathlon, which was held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., more than 15,000 college students have participated in the event. Teams have come from schools stateside, as well as from as far away as Belgium, China and New Zealand.

According to DOE statistics, less than 4 percent of the country's electricity comes from the use of clean technologies from renewable resources like the sun, though the percentages have been steadily increasing.

Solar power can make a home more energy efficient by lessening the household's burden on the electric grid. To figure out ways beyond solar power to make your home more energy efficient, households should seek energy audits from home inspection contractors who can determine where to cut the waste.