On Friday at 10 a.m., the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon opens in West Potomac Park in Washington D.C. The event provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity for members of the public to tour homes that save energy and money—and are powered by the sun. Many of my colleagues describe attending Solar Decathlon as one of the highlights of their professional careers, and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to squeeze in a visit during a quick work trip to D.C. later this week.

The Solar Decathlon is a collegiate competition where teams design and build energy-efficient houses powered by the sun. These teams spend almost two years creating houses to compete in the 10 contests of the Solar Decathlon. The event challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

The Solar Decathlon website is filled with all kinds of information highlighting the event and the student teams who participate. Some of my favorite sections include:

While you can learn a lot about the Solar Decathlon on the Web, I hope if you’re in the D.C. area Sept. 23-Oct. 2 you’ll have a chance to check it out in person—and be one of the thousands of people who claim each decathlon is an inspiring and educational experience.

Chris Stewart is a senior project leader at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which assists EERE in providing technical content for many of its websites.