The People Speak
It might be sundown on the U.S. Department of Energy Solar
Decathlon, but that’s not going to keep Appalachian State University from continuing to shine
brightly in the world of sustainability and technological innovation.
The Solar Decathlon, a bi-annual competition of solar-powered homes designed and built by colleges around the world, wrapped up Oct. 2 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Appalachian’s entry, the Solar Homestead, was one of 19 homes evaluated on their architecture, engineering and market appeal, amongst other qualities.
The net-zero energy Solar Homestead placed 12th in the overall contest, but it received trophies in four competitions. The Solar Homestead team, comprised of more than 40 ASU students and faculty members who worked on the project for the past year, was recognized as a first place finisher in the Hot Water category, placed second in Communications and third in the Architecture and Home Entertainment categories.
The team is also coming home with another coveted honor: ASU’s decathletes were awarded the Solar Decathlon’s People’s Choice Award on Oct. 1, during the event’s Victory Reception. ASU received 92,538 online votes from people who felt the Solar Homestead was the superior choice in the competition.
Many of those votes came from Appalachian family and friends, but the number also accounts for those who followed the competition online, as well as the thousands of people who visited the Solar Homestead during the decathlon.
“The public really liked the house during the exhibition, and the People’s Choice Award proved that the students designed and built a house that people could relate to in many ways,” said Chadwick Everhart, the ASU faculty advisor for the Solar Decathlon.
Nathanael Latigue, an architectural design major at ASU and a member of the Solar Homestead team, said he thought it was incredible that the school received so many votes.
“Not many people knew who we were, but people thought our design was most appealing to them,” he said.
The Solar Homestead introduced many people to Appalachian State University, a school that has been a long-time proponent of sustainability and renewable energy technologies. ASU’s participation and successes in the Solar Decathlon reflect brightly on the school and the students it is producing.
Latigue said Appalachian’s ability to beat out bigger schools, like N.C. State, for even the opportunity to compete in the Solar Decathlon, shows that people who attend ASU are not only competitive, but also one day may be leaders in sustainability and energy.
“We have the capability,” he said. “We can go out in the job world and make an effect.”
Brian Crutchfield, sustainable development director at Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation, a company that provided financial support for the Solar Homestead, is excited about the crop of students coming out of the ASU’s Solar Decathlon project.
Joe Gill, an ASU solar decathlete who interned with Blue Ridge Electric this summer, helped the company design a program to promote in-house Home Energy Audits. Crutchfield said Gill was a great asset to the electricity cooperative.
Crutchfield said Blue Ridge Electric is extremely supportive of programs and projects based in sustainable development, a concept that aims to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Appalachian’s self-sufficient Solar Homestead is an effort of which they are very proud.
“The ASU team helped us to rethink how we need to address sustainable development,” he said. “It has always been a part of our history and a building block that we must embrace to become more competitive and innovative in the future.”
Appalachian’s Office of Sustainability, created in 2009 in response to the school’s growing focus on sustainability education and awareness, was also a major advocate of the Solar Homestead.
Director Ged Moody feels the project was an excellent representation of sustainability efforts being undertaken by Appalachian and the community.
“I could not be more proud of our team and the manner in which they competed and represented Appalachian,” he said.
Moody said Appalachian’s job as a university is to educate the leaders of tomorrow. The future requires that those leaders must be educated in sustainable principles and practices. “Sustainability is a critically important issue in our global society and an educational imperative,” he said.
Despite not winning the Solar Decathlon, the Solar Homestead was a major accomplishment for Appalachian. It contributed to the school’s emergence as a world leader in the sustainability movement, produced a group of students who are poised to be game-changers in energy and technology, and created public interest in the need to move toward a greener future.
“To me, it is a signal of the great things ahead for our university as it travels the path of sustainability,” Moody said.
For more information on Appalachian State University’s Solar Homestead, visit http://www.thesolarhomestead.com. For more on the Solar Decathlon, visit http://www.solardecathlon.gov.