The Race to Build the Most Efficient Solar Home Nightly Business Report Planet Forward PBS


For more information visit: Airdate: Thursday, July 21, 2011Peek inside a solar house by Middlebury College team for competition in Solar Decathlon, sponsored by the U.S. Dept of Energy. Their design idea for solar AC has market promise and has been filed for patent.SUSIE GHARIB: Creating cost-effective, energy efficient homes. Its a tall order, especially when you up the ante and say those houses have to be attractive. Well, college students will compete to build them this fall. Tonight, we continue our series, “Planet Forward,” its a partnership with The George Washington University Social Media Project, using your ideas to power our future. Frank Sesno takes us behind the scenes on the race to build the best solar home. FRANK SESNO, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: When you hear the term “decathlon,” you probably think of this.SESNO: But every two years, teams with different sorts of decathletes from all around the world gather in Washington, D.C. Meet the team from Middlebury College in Vermont. Theyve been submitting videos to “Planet Forward” in the run-up to the Solar Decathlon this September. The U.S. Department of Energy sponsors the contest, 20 college teams have to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just raised the last section of the south wall. SESNO: The house, a super-efficient 1,000 square feet, reminiscent of a New England farmhouse, its insulated with spray-blown cellulose which is composed of 80 percent recycled materials. RICHARD KING, CREATOR & DIRECTOR, SOLAR DECATHLON: Its actually an architects and engineers dream to start with a clean sheet of paper, and use that creativity and ingenuity to come up with a house of the future, you know, an energy efficient house that is powered entirely by the Sun. SENSON: Richard King is the creator and director of the Solar Decathlon. R. KING: Its not just a paper design competition, if you know what I mean. They actually have to build it, bring it to the National Mall in Washington, and demonstrate that it works. You not only need the engineers and architects to design the core of the house, but interior decoration, the lighting, the furniture, the cabinetry. Also, they need to communicate, and they also need to raise the money for it. So its like a small business. SESNO: Serious business for the University of Maryland College Park. Now competing in their fourth Solar Decathlon, theyve named this years house “Watershed.”AMY GARDNER, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: So, normal Solar Decathlon houses are all required to do everything powered by the Sun, but our house has an extra measure, our house also cares for the way that we handle water. One of the innovations that grew out of the 2007 effort was what we call the “liquid desiccant waterfall.” The water is actually a working fluid, and runs in a closed waterfall in the house, when air is drawn over the flow, it draws humidity out of the air. We had had hundreds and hundreds of indications of interest from small businesses and from homeowners thinking, this is something I need in my home. And so the team that researched and designed that device filed for patent to try to develop a marketable prototype from those lessons learned. SESNO: Theres the hope that a green energy breakthrough could come from one of these houses. R. KING: Whats good for America is to grow our green businesses and industries. If I owned a business, I would want to hire these students to give me a jump on the competition and to make my business grow. SESNO: This years Solar Decathlon features large universities and small colleges. Middleburys approach capitalizes on efficient design and materials, and, of course, the Sun, from south-facing windows to the very latest in solar panels, enough to completely power a family of four in 21st Century style. Im Frank Sesno, with “Planet Forward.”

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