Renderings courtesy of the University of Madrid
Every two years, the US Department of Energy gathers some of the best minds in science for its biannual Solar Decathlon in Washington DC. Teams from universities around the world compete to create the most advanced, most viable solar powered homes and cutting edge alternative energy solutions.
Last week, Team Spain (from the University of Madrid) invited TreeHugger to take a sneak peak at their stellar offering for this year's competition in October: the B&W; House. It's a house fashioned with a roof that continually rotates to face the sun in order to capture maximum sunlight.
The B&W; Solar House Design
At the presentation I attended, they revealed the basic concept and renderings of the innovative solar home. The single-story house has a square design, which helps avoid energy loss in its layout. It's designed as a modest (45 square meters) home suitable for production as a prefab. It's been carefully designed to help make more efficient use of the solar power accumulated by the rotating roof: "a recirculation heat/refrigeration liquid capture system is responsible for redistributing all the energy captured through the walls storing it in raised thermal inertia mass." Which means that the energy can be used to either heat or cool the house, depending on the weather at any given time.
There are other efficient ideas implemented, like the use of "a skylight that illuminates the center of the house with diffused light," to save electricity, and passive design principles abound, but the star is most certainly the rotating, 2-ton solar panel laden roof:
The Rotating, Sunlight-Catching Roof
"The roof incorporates a carefully chosen combination of thermal and photovoltaic panels that emphasize its square design . . . it will be able to offer the necessary 30 or 45 degree angle according to the latitude where the house is located and the angle of the sun in each season of the year. At night the roof can be laid flat to offer minimum resistance given its balanced design."
There are also "mobile self-orientating photovoltaic panels" in the corners of each of the house's facades designed to capture even more solar energy--it all makes for a whole lot of rotating solar panel power.
But how, exactly, does the device calculate and operate the roof's rotation without expending too much energy? And how sturdy will it be? Team Spain's not saying, at least not yet.
"At this stage the design system that enables the movement of the roof with minimum energy use is not revealed. Nevertheless it can be guaranteed that three or more support points will always be in place, capable of withstanding strong winds."
Of course, much of the info about the B&W; House is being kept under wraps—there is a competition to try to win, after all—but so far, it's one hell of an innovative design. The professor heading up Team Spain said the hope is that the roof's panels will generate more than enough energy to power the entire home, and then some: the surplus can then be sent back into the grid for use elsewhere. We'll have to wait for the details until October, when it's officially unveiled at the Solar Decathlon 2009.
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