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Future of Solar Living

WASHINGON, D.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Each year crowds gather on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for a look at that latest in innovative, high-tech, solar powered homes. But these houses are not for sale. What you see here could end up in your home in a few years.

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Odd shapes, odd sizes, odd look! These are the homes of the future … covered in solar panels, giant greenhouse-like homes, homes with pyramid style roofs. They're all unique, livable, and part of a competition called the solar decathlon.

Twenty college teams from around the world compete to build the most attractive and energy efficient solar-powered homes. Architect students, and electrical engineer students show off their unique designs and technologies.

"You can close your house or change the position of the sunscreens or the insulation panels depending on the weather conditions so your house can remain as energy efficient as possible," Corey McCalla, an architecture student at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., told Ivanhoe.

"We have a passive heating house," Eric Davis, an electrical engineering student at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Wis., said. "It will heat up just by having people in the house."

"We have a really interesting product," Shengyin Xu, an architecture student at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minn., said. "It's a product called electrochromic glass, and what happens is it self tints with the application of a little bit of electricity."

Each home must produce enough electricity and hot water from the sun to perform normal functions of a home. Teams use solar panels, special window coatings that let light in, while reflecting heat into the room, special foam insulation that make homes more comfortable and quieter while saving energy.

The houses must be zero energy homes, meaning each house must consume the same amount of energy it puts out. A home's curb appeal and livability are also judged.

"What we wanted to be able to do is to generate an energy producing environment on the outside and on the inside something that was warm and felt like you wanted to live in it," Ulrike Passe, an assistant professor of architecture at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, said.

It’s the making of solar powered green generation we can all live with.

Each team receives $100,000 from the department of energy to design, build and operate the solar powered homes. The homes can be built to suit your needs, prices range from $250,000 to $500,000, depending on the house. For a complete list of winners and scores go to

The Optical Society of America, The Materials Research Society, and The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.-USA, contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.

Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:

Tom Welch
U.S. Department of Energy
Washington, DC 20585
(202) 586-4316

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
Pender McCarter


Optical Society of America
Washington, DC 20036-1023
(202) 223-8130

Materials Research Society
Warrendale, PA 15086-7573
(724) 779-3003

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