Missouri S&T to build house for 2013 Solar Decathlon

The U.S. Department of Energy announced on Thursday it has selected 20 universities to participate in the 2013 Solar Decathlon, a competition involving the building of solar houses. Missouri University of Science and Technology was one of the universities chosen.

Missouri S&T has built four solar houses for previous competitions, which were all held in Washington, D.C. In 2013, the Solar Decathlon will be hosted by the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif. No dates were announced, but the competitions are usually held every two years in the fall.

The Missouri S&T Solar House Team is finishing its designs and will begin building their 1,000-square-foot house on campus property this summer. “We are trying to focus on engineering, energy efficiencies and adaptable living – with moveable parts, including a grid wall, adjustable solar panels and transforming furniture,” says Eric Mullis, a sophomore in computer engineering from St. Louis.

All of the teams must ship their houses (and, of course, solar panels) to the contest site, where they are then reassembled. The houses are evaluated by judges in 10 categories.

The DOE typically gives grants to the teams selected to cover a chunk of the costs associated with building a solar house and participating in the competitions.

The four solar homes S&T has built in the past are now located in S&T’s Solar Village.

Original Article (http://news.mst.edu/2012/01/missouri_st_to_build_house_for.html)

Window of the Future

The future is now when it comes to changing your current windows for an energy efficient window and an energy producing one at that. Simply adding a certain flexible film to your current window can result in a big change. A window that helps trap the sunlight in the winter to help heat your home and help cool your home during the summer. A concept that is epic and undeniably simple. Not only by opening and closing the window to control airflow but by the window simply standing there. Here is a lecture that is about 12 minutes long but really intriguing. Justin Hall gives a speech that will want you to take action with the beginning image of an iceberg breaking apart and an image of a girl dyeing of thirst in the end because of our current methods of energy production and usage. He is telling us about a solution that scientist from around the world have been working on. He talks about the concept of how to master carbon and have it react with graphite to make an almost supernatural window. Graphite is blasted by a vapor that helps change the form of carbon to be more conductive than copper. Carbon at a nano scale is also conveniently transparent. You can affix this to your window with a polymer to help repel heat or attract it. In addition to this the technology can generate energy in a clean and cheap manner at a microscopic scale. This easy manner is taking two nano materials with a detector and an imager in between. This material takes inferred at night and converts it to an electron. Store this electron, release it and you have energy. Hold this electron in a tank to store it. If you don’t need it you can beam it across to your neighbor. Thus the end of a power grid and a big welcome for free energy. All future energy can be beamed from one energy efficient window to another. All in all, sun light in the day and inferred at night combine on one window to be a source of clean power that we all need.

“The power plant of tomorrow is no power plant.” —- Justin Hall 
-Julie Glenn
Solar House Team Member

Solar Face-Lift

 The Missouri S&T Solar Village has been around since 2002 when the first house came home from competition. Did you know? Not everyone in the Rolla community did either. The village has been a sort of “best kept secret” of S&T, and many lucky residents have called it home. However, throughout the years it has suffered much wear and tear. The Missouri S&T Solar House Team has transported every house to and from the National Mall in Washington D.C. Many house sections have been exposed to weathering that would not have been a concern if the home had been built stationary. All of those problems were solved last summer 2010 when the village underwent a face lift. 

Three Solar House team members along with Physical Facilities employees worked through the summer to get the village problems fixed. The exterior siding on the 09, 07, and 02 were replaced due to damage and wear-and-tear. In the 2007 house a lot of improvements were made. A new front door and a railing around the front and back porch were added. The photovoltaic array was rewired, the water pumps were fixed, and the roof was replaced.
Thumbnail image for Village from up high 3 cropped and small.jpg

The 2009 house was in storage over the winter and suffered some damage due to weathering. The basement was poured for the house and it was moved to its final location as the last addition to the Solar Village. The interior floor was replaced, the solar thermal system and home automation systems were fixed, and the interior was repainted. In addition, the thermostat, heat pump, and electrical systems were all given a tune-up to make sure everything was running smoothly.  

As far as the Village exteriors, concrete was poured for the sidewalks connecting the houses. The grass and sprinkler systems were installed and all the houses were nicely landscaped with local plants. We even got a brand new sign to signify the Village as a part of the University and to make sure everyone knows what is is.

Now the Village is up and running with new tenants and a new place at the University. A variety of groups go on tours, professors conduct research, and the residents installed composting bins and a green house. Anyone who remembers the local “eye-sore” of the 2007 house water damage is sure to be amazed at the transformations that have occurred in the Missouri S&T Solar Village.

-Anna Osborne

Director of Public Relations

Two is Better Than One

What could be better than the power and convenience of solar energy? As long as the sun keeps rising up off our horizon, we should have more than enough energy to absorb and use, right? Well, that may be true for most days, but not all. Because of this inconsistency in daylight, solar energy has been viewed as “unreliable,” and therefore not good enough for our ever-growing appetite for power. But that may change thanks to civil engineer Mike Strizki. When posed the issue of unreliable solar power, he turned to another green technology to compensate: hydrogen fuel cells.

During the summertime, Strizki’s 150 solar panels produce more than enough energy for his house in New Jersey. But during the winter, the panels fall short of their energy quota. So to make up for this deficit, all extra energy produced is sent to an electrolyzer. There, the extra energy is used to split the molecules of purified tap water into hydrogen and oxygen and then vents the oxygen and sends the hydrogen to on of 11 tanks. When he needs more energy during the winter or on a cloudy day, he can use hydrogen fuel cells to convert the stored energy back into usable electricity and continue enjoying life off the grid.
But such a project as the Hydrogen House didn’t come without a price. Strizki invested about $500,000 in the operation, and says the cost has now come down to $175,000- the price tag for another such building in the Cayman Islands where he recently installed the technology. Actually, the cost could come down further to about $60,000 if the mass production of components achieved economies of scale. Even though this price is drastically lower and the technology eventually pays itself off, it’s still more than what a majority of people can afford up front, but there’s still hope. Strizki foresees the technology becoming financially attractive if it’s adopted on a community-wide scale.
To transition from non-renewable resources to hydrogen-solar technology, a revolution is in order. A revolution Strizki is looking forward to leading. Because of his technology, Strizki has been living off the grid since 2006 and has become the voice of the Hydrogen House ever since. Seeing the potential this technology holds, Mike Strizki is convinced that hydrogen-solar technology is a powerful tool if we are going to topple our old energy habits. With it, the solar revolution has taken one more step to reliability, and therefore, we have taken one more step to a healthier, smarter world. 
Photo and information sources: http://energy.aol.com/2011/08/13/completely-off-the-grid/

-Aaron Enz
Director of Design and Construction Elect

Passive Solar Design

Passive solar technologies have been used to regulate temperatures since the days of early man. In the past, these techniques were used out of necessity due to the lack of current technology. Now, passive solar designs are environmentally friendly and cost effective solutions to modern heating, cooling, and lighting techniques.

So what are passive solar designs? The idea of passive solar designs is that the energy from the sun will provide heating, cooling, and light for a desired environment. Simple designs are common for passive solar, as most designs revolve around windows, shade, angles, and materials. For the most part, the designs do not move and have no mechanically powered equipment at all. 
Thumbnail image for five_elements_passive.gif    
The design can begin with the orientation of the building. The ideal configuration includes elongated N-S walls, with the building facing as close to true south as possible. Overhangs can be designed to block the sunlight from entering the home on the hottest day of the year, but will allow that sun to heat the space during the coldest. Ample south-facing windows can be used to naturally light the space. All these techniques help reduce the requirement for HVAC and electrical lighting. 
One technique of using passive solar energy is Trombe walls. Trombe walls are sun-facing walls that contain multiple layers of vents and insulation, effectively acting as a solar thermal collector. These walls can be made of stone, concrete, adobe, or water-tanks. Instead of vents, there can also be water pipes included in the walls to produce a solar hot water system.
Almost any physical object that can be used as a solar thermal collector and is exposed to the sun can be used for passive solar energy collecting. 

Backyard Grillin’

of paying for the upkeep and supplies for your gas or charcoal grill?
Now you have the option to never have to buy fuel for your grill again
–the solar cookers are here. A solar cooker can do anything that a
typical gas or charcoal grill can, but being more cost effective and
efficient at the same time.

cooker could be used for sterilizing water on a camping trip to doing a
great job at cooking food in your backyard bbq.  There are various
models out there that don’t cost that much. There are even tips that are
easy to follow in making your own.  All you would need is some foil and
card board.


a dark, covered pot place 2 or three medium size, whole potatoes- any
type. No need to preheat the oven. Let them bake all day in a slow oven
of about 250 degrees F. Here is where you can set the oven due south and
just leave it alone while you are studyin
g! When you come home you will
have the most flavorful potatoes you have ever tasted! Garnish them
however you prefer or just eat them plain. I often store these in the
refrigerator to be used in other solar recipes, like the next one!

a couple of those SOLAR BAKED POTATOES and place them into a dark pot.
Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil, add a 1/2 cup of milk, sprinkle
with salt and pepper, and a generous amount of Parmesan cheese. Mix
briefly, then cover and place into a preheated  solar oven and bake until
hot- about an hour or so. Real easy- REAL GOOD!

Ideas to make your own cooker: http://solarcooking.org/plans/

Or buy one: http://www.solarovens.org/

-Julie Glenn
Solar House Team Member

Solar, Solar, Everywhere!




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Some interesting things for us to think about are how we can use
solar panels in everything we do.  There
are constant developments exploring other uses of solar energy besides residential applications. The use of solar panels could expand to use on boats. Just think of
all the possibilities to use maybe on houseboats to speed boats and barges!
Right now there are studies on how to use solar panels in a way that also
functions as sails on large ocean carriers. I think that is brilliant because
not only are we reducing the amount of energy to push an ocean liner along but
supplying energy to the rest of the boat for various things. Be sure to check
this article out! It gives a little more information about this topic. Then
while you are there check the rest of this site out. There are all kinds of tid-bits
to read regarding being more environment friendly and this site also gives you the
option to follow various government legislation and provides the chance to sign
a petition or two.  http://www.care2.com/causes/solar-panels-act-as-sails-for-shipping-vessels-2.html   

-Julie Glenn
Solar House Team Member

The sun’ll come out…. tomorrow?

….From the looks of it, no. But here’s for hoping! The 2011 Solar Decathlon officially started on 9/22 with public tours beginning today, 9/23 at 10 am. There are 15 members of the Missouri S&T Solar House Team here in Washington, D.C. to check it out. We have 7 alumni members from the 2005, 2007, and 2009 teams, 3 current team members who were also part the 2009 team, and 4 decathlon virgins (including our main advisor). 
2013_current members.jpg
The three undergraduate decathlon newbies (Aaron Enz, Emily Vandivert, and Charles Wright- pictured right to left- who are current team leads and future officers….right? wink, wink) were sponsored by the team to come check out the 2011 competition. Right now the team is working on proposals for the 2013 Solar Decathlons in China and the US. If we get in, it will be the first time that there is 100% turnover from competition to competition within the team. This means it’s important for newer members to understand how the contests work, and what they are up against. 
Aaron, Emily, and Charles may have gotten 2 days off of school- but not without some homework. They have to score the teams and predict the final rankings of the competition. Also, when we get back to Rolla, they must give a presentation to the team at a general meeting about what they saw and learned. 
Check back tomorrow for more about the houses we saw and which were our favorites and why!

Solar Living

So what’s it like to live in a Solar Village? I for one am having a fantastic experience. My name is Anna Osborne and I’m the Director of Public Relations for the Missouri S&T Solar House Team. Thanks to the Office of Sustainable Energy & Environmental Engagement (OSE3) I get to live in the 2005 solar house this semester. The other two houses are occupied by David George (Project Manager for the Solar House Team) and the Oerther family (Dr. Oerther- professor of Environmental Engineering at S&T). 

This summer I worked as a research intern at Purdue University in Indiana. So when my lease started my parents moved my stuff in for me (so nice of them, right?) and took the opportunity to use my house as a little vacation get away from St. Louis. As soon as I moved in, I took the opportunity to learn more about how the house works passively. You know what? It was designed very well! The size and shape allows it to be easily cooled by cross ventilation- especially at night when the temperature drops. I can cool the house down, then close the windows and blinds during the day and it keeps its temperature pretty well below 84 degrees. Some days it gets too hot and  I had to turn on the AC to keep things comfortable, but overall- I’ve only had it on for a handful of days over the past 4 weeks. 

Making Ice Cream.jpg Clotheline.jpg

What else do you do in a Solar Village? Well, make homemade hand-churned ice cream! I got a churn for my birthday and tested it out on some experimental vegan ice cream. It was so so, definitely different from normal ice cream. Weather permitting, I also dry my clothes on the clothes lines David put up in the back of the 2002 house. 
Overall, I am really enjoying my time here at the Village. On a side note, since I graduate this December, OSE3 is looking for a tenant to take over my lease beginning in January 2012. If you are interested, or want to learn more, e-mail Julie Wilson (wilsonjulie@mst.edu).

Free Range Home

It’s summertime in the Solar Village and the place is crawling with activity. Ben, Director of Design and Construction for the Solar House Team, caught a glimpse of these cute, fluffy creatures running around the grounds- where could they have come from?! 

Dan and Sarah Oerther, of course! They have been living in the village since January of this year, and have taken steps to be more sustainable in their every day lives. This includes getting eggs right from their back yard. In a typical factory farm, chickens receive less than one square foot of space each. Based on the size of the Solar Village grounds, these happy hens are allowed to roam in over 11,000 square feet of grass, giving each chicken about 3,500 square feet of space. You can’t get anymore free range than that! They are also friendly enough for the Oerther’s 10-month old boy, Barney, to crawl around in the grass next to them. The hens produce plenty of free-range, cage-free eggs to feed the family and other Solar Village residents, such as myself.

Now that the Village is full of residents, we will be posting more blogs about life in the Village, what’s been going on, and how we like living in our solar-powered, student-designed homes! Check back in soon.