September 11, 2013

Vermont colleges active in a solar-powered future

The Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Vermont's Norwich University and Middlebury College are each sending student-built and designed solar-powered houses to an international competition in California where they'll vie to be chosen as the structure that best combines energy production and efficiency.

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This July 30, 2013 photo shows the Norwich University solar-powered home sits in Northfield, Vt. Vermont's Norwich University and Middlebury College are sending their student-designed solar homes to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in California. Both schools built entries that blend affordability and consumer appeal with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.(AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

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In this July 30, 2013 photo, student Brad Paisker checks photo-voltaic panels on the roof of the Norwich University solar-powered home in Northfield, Vt. Vermont's Norwich University and Middlebury College are sending their student-designed solar homes to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in California. There are 20 teams from across the globe competing for bragging rights about the best way to use the sun to power houses.(AP Photo/Toby Talbot)


Vermont to use solar for 10 state buildings

MONTPELIER, Vt. – The state of Vermont is going to use solar power to run 10 state office buildings across the state, including all seven Vermont prisons.

Gov. Peter Shumlin announced Wednesday the state had signed a contract to install solar arrays for the 10 buildings, each capable of producing about 500 kilowatts of electricity. In some cases the buildings will get all their power from the solar panels.

There is no cost to taxpayers and it will save the state $1 million.

In addition to the state's prisons, the solar arrays will be for the Pavilion office building in Montpelier, which houses the governor's office, and state office buildings in Brattleboro and Bennington.

Officials say installation of the panels could begin in the spring.

The Solar Decathlon, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, challenges college teams every two years to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive.

The finished structures are designed to cost no more than $250,000 to build, but that figure doesn't include the design costs and other expenses. Norwich raised about $800,000 for the project from sponsors and alumni while Middlebury raised about $1.4 million.

"It's something that really sucks you in, in a really positive way," said Cordelia Newbury, of New York City, who graduated from Middlebury this spring and spoke at the Statehouse lawn in Montpelier on Tuesday, celebrating the Vermont teams.

"Once you kind of get hooked, one way or another, whether it's design or opportunity to build something hands-on, you're sort of hooked for good," said Newbury.

Of the 20 teams from North America and Europe in the Solar Decathlon competition, Vermont and California are the only states sending more than one team -- highlighting how tiny Vermont is helping lead the ongoing search for ways to make homes more energy-efficient.

Dozens of students from both schools have worked on or helped design the house or raise money.

Middlebury's 950-square-foot entry includes a roof where plants provide insulation and help manage storm-water runoff. The solar panels are next to the building.

After the competition, the building will be brought back to Middlebury where it will become a dormitory.

At 800 square feet, Norwich's entry is designed to be affordable for Vermont families who make 20 percent less than the state's average family income.

After the competition, the Norwich house is slated to go to Springfield, Ohio, where it will be displayed by the Westcott House Foundation, which runs the house designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright as a museum.

Norwich's design is being advertised for sale by Huntington Homes, a Vermont producer of prefabricated houses. None have been sold yet.

The buildings entered in this year's competition will be displayed in Irvine, Calif., in early October.


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