Every couple of years since 2005, student teams have been challenged to design, build and operate energy efficient, cost effective solar houses as part of an international Solar Decathlon. As teams show off their entries for this year's competition at the International Builders' Show in Orlando, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon has announced that China is to follow Europe's lead and host its own version of the competition in 2013.

The very first Solar Decathlon was actually held in 2002 and consisted of 14 student teams from across the U.S. The field was opened up to international participation in 2005 and has been staged on a biennial basis ever since. In 2007, an agreement was reached with the Spanish government to branch out into Europe and last summer Virginia Tech took the winning spot in Madrid.

Now the U.S. Department of Energy, China's National Energy Administration, Peking University, and Applied Materials have signed a memorandum of understanding that will see the first Solar Decathlon being held in China in 2013.

"The Solar Decathlon is a powerful tool to teach young people and the public about renewable energy – especially the fact that renewable energy technologies are available for use today to reduce energy costs and environmental impacts," said Dr. Mark Pinto from Applied Materials. "The extension of the program to China will demonstrate a continued commitment between the U.S. and China to advance renewable energy technology."

This year's U.S. challenge will be heading for Washington's National Mall later this year.