Solar-Powered Houses That'll Knock Your Lights Out

As severe weather wreaks havoc on our power-delivery systems, fuel costs soar and environmental consciousness increases, alternative and self-sustaining energy sources are garnering more interest than ever. But turning these alternatives into viable power sources for your average homeowner is no easy task.

Enter the solar decathlon. The event, a competition coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy, challenges collegiate teams to design and construct affordable, solar-powered homes. The results go on display starting Sept. 23 on the National Mall, where the houses will be open to the public until Oct. 2. (That's Team Canada's TRTL -- pronounced "turtle" if we had to guess -- house above.)

Click on the pictures below to see some solar-powered homes now on the market:

Teams are eligible to win in three different categories: affordability (announced Sept. 27), engineering (Sept. 29) and communications (Sept. 30).

In recognition of this forward-thinking event, we've compiled a gallery of 10 of the niftiest houses to enter the competition. From Team China's thrifty "Y Container" and Team Massachusetts' time-savvy "4D Home" to New York's cityscape-minded "Solar Roofpod" and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's disaster-relief "Re_Home," each student-designed home takes a different approach to harvesting sunlight. Click through our slideshow to see 10 of the coolest solars.

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