Each year, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon challenges collegiate teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. This October, 20 teams were judged in Irvine, Calif., on which design had the best blend of affordability, consumer appeal and architectural excellence, with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s team (UNC Charlotte) contributed an especially interesting design for an urban home. Their “UrbanEden” is powered by a 7.65-kW photovoltaic array, comprised of 30 photovoltaic panels donated by Bosch Solar Energy.
But what’s clever is that the solar installation uses an adjustable PV rack. The rack is comprised of three separate sections that can move, independently, across a 17-ft horizontal distance above the home’s roof. This exposes roof-mounted radiant-heat-exchangers to the cool night sky, provides shade to southern windows from direct solar gains and bestows a protective canopy over the home’s southern patio area. Homeowners can easily control rack movement on a tablet computer.
The team also took a sustainable approach to the rest of the home’s design and construction. For instance, a series of connected indoor and outdoor rooms combine into a single environment that adapts to maximize comfort and minimize energy use.
The UNC Charlotte team is comprised of faculty and students from schools of architecture, engineering and business. Work began on the design of UrbanEden in October 2011. After the competition, the team will bring the house back to Charlotte, N.C., to use as a research lab.
The Solar Decathlon was established in 2002, and has expanded to include 65 participating teams and nearly 10,000 students in three competitions around the world: Solar Decathlon Europe 2012, Solar Decathlon China 2013 and the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013. “The Solar Decathlon continues to be an important program, not only for training our future engineers and energy managers, but for inspiring the general population to learn more about their energy use,” says Chris Curtis, president and CEO of North American operations for Schneider Electric, which helped sponsor the event. SPW