Can a liberal education prepare you to compete in the Solar Decathlon? In the spirit of Emerson, “Self Reliance,” from Middlebury, will be the only submission from a liberal arts school to the Department of Energy’s architectural competition on the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23-Oct. 2, 2011 (Follow on Twitter with the hashtag #SD2011).

Chosen as one of twenty finalists from around the world, Middlebury’s house uses the power of the sun in the form of a traditional New England farmhouse. The Middlebury team has been chronicling their progress on Planet Forward as they construct their home and bring it to DC to compete. We recently featured their project and a another competitor–University of Maryland–in our segment on Nightly Business Report.

The hope is that a green energy breakthrough could come from one of these houses. University of Maryland might already be close, with their Liquid Desiccant Waterfall. This is a waterfall in the house that actually draws humidity out of the air (it’s pretty cool).

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All of the entrants must be solar powered and completely energy self-sufficient.  Teams compete in 10 areas (that’s why it’s called a decathlon): Architecture, Market Appeal, Engineering, Communications, Affordability, Comfort Zone, Hot Water, Appliances, Home Entertainment, Energy Balance (Go to DOE’s awesome competition page to learn more).

Stay tuned on Planet Forward to follow Middlebury as they compete for this prestigious prize.