Penn State's ultra-efficient solar home heads to international competition

October 02, 2007

University Park, Pa. -- After almost two years in design, development and construction, Penn State's MorningStar, an ultra-efficient solar home, will travel this week to the prestigious international Solar Decathlon. Twenty universities are entered in the U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored competition, each striving to design, build and operate the most attractive and energy-efficient, 100 percent solar-powered home possible. All the homes will be on display on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., forming a temporary "solar village" for judging Oct. 12-20.

This is the third competition of its kind, with previous Solar Decathlons held in 2002 and 2005. The 2005 event attracted more than 120,000 visitors to the Mall.

After Penn State students, faculty and industry partners re-assemble the MorningStar on the Mall (the home will travel to D.C. in two halves), it will be on display and open to the public with the other homes. The opening ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 12; the awards ceremony at 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19. There are 10 contest categories, with architecture, engineering, market viability and communications earning top points.

Students from six colleges and 20 departments at Penn State's University Park campus contributed to the University's Solar D effort, including Agricultural Sciences, Arts and Architecture, Communications, Engineering, Business and Health and Human Development. Housed in the Department of Architectural Engineering and managed by Penn State's Center for Sustainability, the Penn State Solar Decathlon team aimed to bring multiple disciplines together to promote environmental stewardship and help advance Penn State's leadership in sustainability education.

On Oct. 12, the Penn State Solar Decathlon team will be conducting private tours of their 800-square-foot solar home in Washington, D.C. Members of the MorningStar Pennsylvania team, totaling more than 900 faculty and students, will offer tours of the house from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on the National Mall.

The Solar Decathlon competition has been hosted by the Department of Energy biannually since 2002. Each of the 20 teams competing begin with a two-year, $100,000 grant from the Department of Energy. The Penn State team developed its project through its research of new technologies and the eight-year partnership with the American Indian Housing Initiative in Montana.

The project has been a catalyst for sustainability-related curriculum and increased opportunities for communication between disciplines, faculty and industry. Penn State's team built relationships with more than 30 local and national businesses to design and refine the various systems of the home; a full list of systems partners and team sponsors can be found under the "Sponsorship" tab at online.

Following the competition, the MorningStar will be returned to the University Park campus, where it will serve as a permanent renewable energy research lab and outreach facility at the Center for Sustainability, located just south of Beaver Stadium and Medlar Field. For more information, visit online.

  • This is Penn State's solar home, the MorningStar, under construction over the past summer. For more photos of the MorningStar, click on the image above.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated November 18, 2010