Media Releases

‘Olympic Games of Energy’ kicks off in China

The first Australian team in a Solar Decathlon competition a hit with the Chinese as the Illawarra Flame House is officially opened

This weekend, over 6,000 people visited the Illawarra Flame House, a net-zero energy home, designed and built by students from the University of Wollongong and TAFE Illawarra Institute.

The public flocked to visit this and the other 19 innovative solar-powered houses designed by teams from 33 countries around the world. They were officially opened to the public on Saturday as a part of the first Solar Decathlon ever to be held in Asia. The Solar Decathlon China 2013 is now being held over 10 days in Datong, a former ancient capital, 300km west of Beijing.

Speaking at the official Opening Ceremony on Friday morning, the event was dubbed the ‘Olympic Games of Energy’ by Mr Xiaopeng Li, Governor of Shanxi Province. The Solar Decathlon competition has been run bi-annually in the US since 2002, and in Europe since 2010. Now the competition is being held for the first time in China.

Team UOW Australia’s entry - the Illawarra Flame House, is the first house in Solar Decathlon history to demonstrate the retrofit of an existing home. Modelled from a 1960’s Aussie fibro house floor plan, the Illawarra Flame demonstrates how to address the issue of making existing housing stock energy efficient and comfortable to live in. As one of the most popular houses for visitors to the Solar Decathlon China site, the Illawarra Flame it has had more than 6,000 visitors through its doors, in the first weekend, with thousands more expected over the next seven days of public exhibition.

Team UOW is the first Australian team to ever win a place in a Solar Decathlon competition. The team is made up of students from the University of Wollongong and TAFE Illawarra Institute. The team transformed the contents of their 7 shipping containers, sent from Australia 12 weeks ago, into a beautiful, modern and technologically advanced, net-zero energy home in just 12 days. This was the culmination of two years of planning and design, three months of initial construction and a six-week journey across the Pacific Ocean. The UOW team were the first to be officially connected to the energy grid at the solar village and the first to complete construction of their home.

Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy from the US Department of Energy, David Danielson, highlighted the importance of the competition to this year’s entrants by reminding them that they are joining the group of alumni of 29,000 decathletes from around the world, from previous competitions in the US and Europe over the past 10 years.

“Clean energy is real, clean energy is here, clean energy is now,” said Mr Danielson at the Official Opening Ceremony on August 2.

The Solar Decathlon is made up of 10 contests ranging from achievement of a net-zero energy balance to effective communications and home entertainment. Half of the contests are measured, such as fridge and house temperature, with the remaining contests being judged by panels of experts. With just 10% of the marks declared for the competition so far, Team UOW is currently at the top of the leader board. But there much work still to be done, with the bulk of the points awarded later this week and the final result announced and awards ceremony held on Sunday August 11.

When the competition is complete, Team UOW will return to Wollongong with their Illawarra Flame House. It will then be reconstructed at the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus, where it will become a part of the newly established Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) and will be used as a living laboratory and be open regularly for public exhibit.

NOTE TO EDITORS: High resolution photos and Video News Release available for download. For more information on the team or the competition visit or contact Jack Breen, details below.


Jack Breen – Marketing & Communications Manager, Team UOW

+86 156-1849-8761 (China) or

The Solar Decathlon China 2013 is the highest profile interdisciplinary student-led green building research and innovation competition in the world. The competition will be hosted by the China National Energy Administration and the U.S. Department of Energy, and is organised by Peking University.

VIDEO NEWS RELEASE (7minutes) available for download here:

See also UOW-TV YouTube:

HIGH RESOLUTION PHOTOS available for download here: