In response to Linda Torrey's criticism of Cal Poly's Solar Decathlon project ("Money, energy could be better spent," Letters, June 2-9), I'd like to point out that our effort is much more than just building a house; we're designing a working prototype, with our eyes set on the goal of making sustainability and green building practices affordable and accessible, as well as aesthetic and practical.
As a group of students and faculty, we've worked hard to raise the money we're judiciously spending; thankfully, a generous group of donors were willing to put their money where their ideals are to help us get underway.
Communication is a fundamental part of the competition. How can we show that not only is it in our best interest as a country to transition away from fossil fuels (obvious), but that we can do it affordably and without completely sacrificing comfort (not obvious)? The Solar Decathlon engages the American public on the national stage with the possibilities of solar power, pinging our collective consciousness. At the same time, young engineers and architects from 18 different universities have a rare chance to explore the challenges of making photovoltaics and sustainable building a viable alternative.
As for the robust size of our photovoltaic system - we must remember, not everyone is blessed with the wonderful climes of California. By not augmenting our energy use with natural gas for water and space heating, we require more electrical power than a traditional house of comparable size. Twenty-four kilowatt-hours is hardly profligate.
Robert F. Johnson
Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo