I can hear some saying, “why did he wait so long to attend the Solar Decathlon, where 20 collegiate teams compete to build the best solar, sustainable homes?” To all of you I say, “Thanks for reading our last blog and for knowing the decathlon does not consist of any sporting events.”
Cleantech OC invited us to sit at their booth for a few hours. It was great! I talked to everyone about how great Cleantech OC is and discussed solar with a lot of people. I also handed out a bunch of ecoSolargy swag #FashionAlert!
After having quick bite and letting my dogs out #WoofWoofWoof, I attended the Young Professionals in Energy, a cool group of people who work in the energy industry. Thanks TRC for hosting! We all headed over to check out the Solar Decathlon.
These students have made amazing homes. Solar being my passion and sustainable design only my guilty pleasure, I brought a friend along who knows all about architecture to geek out with me over all 20 houses. Each house utilizes solar energy and some use innovative techniques to maximize their thermal and electrical potential.
The Urban Eden (UNC Charlotte) home has adjustable solar panels. The racking provides summer shading for the patio and can be automatically moved during the winter to allow for solar gain through the southern windows. I’m not sure if all the proper permits were filed, but several engineers approved the structural and electrical stability of the array racking. Other homes, such as the Shade home (Arizona State University & University of New Mexico), were designed for the southwestern states and focused primarily on shading.
One of my favorite applications of solar is from the Chameleon house (Missouri S&T). They used a bifacial solar modules that produces electricity from the top of the module, but also from the bottom. This captures more ambient light and, when done correctly, reflects light that passes through gaps back onto the modules. The modules are mounted on an angle with a reflector behind them to increase the amount of light hitting the back of the module… #AWESOME.
Another major highlight is DALE house (SCI-Arc/Caltech team). This house has solar electric and thermal like many other homes…but this one is on rails #ChooChoo! The house separates into two parts they called “modules”; to avoid confusion, we’ll call them “dohickeys”. The separation creates a comfortable space between both dohickeys. Most houses in the competition are small, but DALE can basically double its size by moving apart while increasing ventilation. I bet you’re thinking what I’m thinking: how on earth is this sustainable? Houses are heavy – moving one must take a lot of energy, right? According to the team, the dohickeys take about a minute to move apart and use as much electricity as leaving a 100 watt light bulb on for 20 minutes. And that’s moving a whole house!
Even though I saw all but two houses #SorryCanada, I’ll be back this weekend to get better look at all of them. Check back next week for more about the innovative designs these students have built! The Solar Decathlon is open again from 11am-7pm Thursday through Sunday, don’t miss out!