BOONE— The Solar Homestead, Appalachian State University’s entry in the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2011 competition, propelled the mountain homestead into the 21st century with its bifacial solar panels, great porch and outbuilding modules that can be reconfigured depending on living needs.
The student-designed, student-built, net zero-energy house won the praises of people, politicians and sustainability pundits in the process. The house won the Solar Decathlon’s People’s Choice Award, receiving the most votes of the nearly 93,000 total votes cast online and at the competition in Washington, D.C.
“We felt like we had won first place when the People’s Choice Award was announced,” said David Lee, Solar Homestead communication manager.
The Solar Homestead team won second place in the communications competition and third place in the architecture competition.
“The team’s passion and enthusiasm were contagious,” said Terri Jones, Solar Decathlon communications contest official. “The jurors felt the team offered the best menu of creatively explained ideas that visitors could take home and implement today.”
The Solar Homestead placed 12th overall in the competition, which was marked by a string of rainy, overcast days which severely impacted teams’ abilities to showcase their solar-powered houses.
“I think $5 of electricity ended up determining a lot of the outcome,” Lee said.
Appalachian’s was one of 19 designs selected to compete in this year’s Solar Decathlon. The international event included entries from China, New Zealand, Belgium and from across the United States.
Members of the Solar Homestead team kept campus, family, friends and donors apprised of their day-to-day activities through a blog, Facebook page, Flickr photo album and other messages.
N.C. Sen. Kay Hagan was among the fans encouraging citizens to vote for Appalachian in the People’s Choice Award competition. “I am so impressed by our students whose innovative design merges modern clean-energy technology with traditional North Carolina sustainable practices,” she said. “ASU’s solar-powered house exemplifies the forward-thinking energy strategies and the talented workforce coming out of North Carolina. Our unbeatable colleges and universities, along with North Carolina’s leadership in renewable energy research and development are a recipe for growing businesses and job creation.”
The Solar Homestead featured multiple buildings that formed indoor and outdoor living space. It had two bedrooms, a multipurpose living and dining space, and outbuilding modules, including a room that could be used as an office or guest quarters. All were connected by a “great porch” the canopy of which was formed by bifacial solar panels.
“Two most striking projects at the decathlon are the Middlebury College building and the Appalachian State University House,” architecture contest juror Michelle Kaufmann said during the competition. “This year’s teams have managed to raise the bar even higher and have made the job of judging the architecture contest extremely difficult for the jury, which tried to find the subtle distinction that separates first from second, and second from third. The top three projects span the globe; each celebrating its unique regional influences and climatic differences.”
This is the first year a design from Appalachian was elected for the competition.
“To be in competition with teams from around the world was truly remarkable,” said Susan Pettyjohn, vice chancellor for University Advancement at Appalachian.
“The support of our community has been tremendous,” the Solar Homestead team wrote on its blog. “We could not have come this far without the support of the Appalachian State University students, alumni, faculty and staff, and support of the entire UNC system and the state of North Carolina. Thank you so much for sharing in this great experience, we’ve learned so much from the collaboration.
The Solar Homestead will return to Boone this week and possibly be exhibited at future conferences focusing on sustainability and net zero-energy design.