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Appalachian selected to compete in Solar Decathlon 2011

solarpanels_100x100.jpgBOONE—Appalachian State University has been selected to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011, which will take place on the National Mall in Washington D.C. next October.

A total of 45 teams submitted proposals for the competition. Only 20 schools were selected for next year’s competition and Appalachian is the only university from North Carolina selected to compete in the Solar Decathlon.

Hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy, the competition will highlight affordable homes that combine energy-efficient construction and appliances with renewable energy systems that are available today.  The competition also supports the administration’s goal of creating a clean energy economy, while saving American families and businesses money and reducing the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels.

“These students are tomorrow’s leaders in helping develop a clean energy economy,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “Their innovative projects will help raise public awareness about energy efficiency, help save consumers money and reduce carbon pollution.”

“This is the world’s largest and most recognized green building competition,” said Jamie Russell, an assistant professor in Appalachian’s Department of Technology. “Being selected to compete is a fantastic honor, but we are going with the intent to win,” he said.

Appalachian will compete against teams from China, New Zealand, Belgium, Canada and other U.S. universities.

Russell, along with Assistant Professor Chad Everhart as well as graduate and undergraduate students in the program submitted a proposal to the DOE last fall. Solar Decathlon organizers received so many outstanding proposals that schools were asked to submit a conceptual design of their proposal including a graphic presentation board and a scale model.

Each team selected to participate in the competition receives a $100,000 grant from the DOE. Russell said the funds will be used to help support several graduate and undergraduate students who will work on the project—from those involved in design and construction as well as who will assist with marketing and communications. Support from the private sector will play a crucial role in the success of Appalachian’s team.

Everhart, a registered architect who serves as the coordinator the Department of Technology’s Building Science Program, said, “The concept of our project is the solar homestead.  The idea was inspired by the vernacular architecture of the area as well as the modest, common-sense approach to construction that is indigenous to rural and agricultural settings.”

Appalachian has proposed building a 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath house with detached guest quarters. It will have solar thermal and solar photovoltaic collectors as part of its zero-energy design. “It’s a novel design we have been working on in the department. It’s good looking and efficient,” Russell said.

The students and faculty currently are fleshing out their schematic design and will construct full-scale mock ups of some of the building’s components this summer. Construction of the actual building will begin this fall. Then the house will be disassembled, transported to Washington, D.C., and reassembled for the competition.

“It’s been a lot of work to get to this point. It’s an exciting process to have the freedom to create an innovative net-zero energy design,” Russell said. “It will be a great experience for students and others who are involved in the competition.”
Applications for the 2011 competition were evaluated by a panel of engineers, scientists and experts from DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Teams were required to meet specific criteria to demonstrate their viability, including their ability to design and build an innovative, entirely solar-powered house, to raise additional funds, to support the project through a well-integrated curriculum, and to assemble a team necessary to carry the project through to completion.

In addition, a panel of professionals from American Institute of Architects, National Association of Home Builders, the U.S. Green Building Council, building industry media, and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers evaluated conceptual designs from prospective teams. The results of their evaluations, combined with scores based on the four criteria listed above, determined the 2011 Solar Decathlon teams.

For more information about the solar decathlon, visit