The UMR and Rolla Technical Institute Solar House Team, which survived the 10 tests of the 2002 Solar Decathlon, is about to face the ultimate test — occupancy. Allison Arnn of De Soto, Mo., a senior in engineering management and the team’s project manager, plans to move into the house Sept. 30 and live there indefinitely.
"Having a full-time occupant in the house allows for a real-world test of its systems," says Jeff Birt, a UMR electronics engineer and the team’s main advisor. "This is a wonderful research opportunity for Solar House Team as it provides invaluable data to be used for the design and construction of the next UMR/RTI Solar House, which will compete in the 2005 Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C." Team members have spent the last several months preparing the house for normal everyday living. Through the combined efforts of Rolla Municipal Utilities (RMU), the City of Rolla and UMR’s physical facilities, the team is getting the house hooked up to city water, sewage and the electrical grid.
"Everyone has been working really well together," says Arnn. "RMU is especially interested in the solar house because they expect to see more situations like this in the near future."
The Missouri legislature recently passed a net-metering law, allowing a home running on alternative power — such as solar energy — to use electricity from the grid if it needs to, but also allowing the owner to sell excess energy produced to the electric company. "This is a mutually beneficial relationship to both the consumer and the company," says Joel Faucett of Rolla, Mo., a senior in computer science and the team’s project action officer. "The times when the house produces the most energy are the times when the demand on the power companies is the greatest, both on a daily and seasonal basis."
Arnn will pay rent, water and sewage, but is looking forward to no electric bill. "It is a welcome relief as a college student to not have to worry about the cost of an electric bill," says Arnn. "And it is such a unique opportunity. How many college students can tell people they lived in a solar house while they attended school?"
The UMR/RTI Solar House Team finished ninth in the 2002 Solar Decathlon, a national student design competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The team was recently selected as one of 20 student groups from colleges and universities throughout the United States, Canada and Europe for the 2005 competition.
Tours of the home are still available by appointment. For more information about the UMR/RTI Solar House Team email sunhome.mst.edu .