The Homestead's Solar Tech

As May comes to a close the Solar Homestead team is in high gear in all areas of construction and preparation for the Solar Decathlon 2011 in Washington, DC. I wanted to touch on some of our innovative technologies today and how they are becoming more applicable to the common individual. The Solar Homestead features three different types of technology that harness the heat and energy of the sun. Our first and foremost technology is our bi-facial photovoltaic array.Bi-facial PV panels differ from standard panels in that they are able to absorb light from the top and bottom. The panels are made so light can penetrate the panels and shine below, while the bottom side of the panels mimics the top, in where they both are capable of absorbing light for electricity production. Our house consists of 48 bi-facial panels each rated at 195W which does not include any absorption from the bottom. Our total array can produce just over 8kW of electricity and when we factor in the additional 30% absorption from below we can generate over 10kW.

Our second solar feature of the house is our Solar Thermal domestic hot water system that uses phase change material for on-demand hot water. We have a talented team of Graduate students that have designed a concept in which we are using a concentrating solar thermal collection unit mounted above our central core of our Homestead. This concentrator collects heat from the sun and transfers it into a special storage tank which contains a secret phase change material. This material can absorb and hold a great amount of heat and almost act as an on-demand unit for the Homestead’s hot water needs. Another great feature of the solar thermal collector is that it also acts as a skylight over the central core of the home, allowing for natural day lighting to encompass the living space.

Our final solar feature on the home is our Trombe wall. Trombe walls have been used for centuries in the passive heating and cooling of homes. The basic concept of the wall consists of a large object that sits behind a window in an inside space.As the day progresses the sunlight coming through the window heats the object inside. As the sun sets, the temperatures begin to drop and the object begins to release the heat it gathered throughout the day into the living space. We have taken it a couple steps further. Our design consists of a special made window that contains a phase change material that absorbs a great amount of heat for the little volume that it takes up. The homeowner has the option to open or close a large sliding door to control the amount of heating penetrating or escaping the interior living space.

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– Ed Pavia 

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. 
Ralph Waldo Emerson 

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