This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

September 08, 2004

Energy-Efficient Solar Homes Sprouting Up Nationwide

Photo of a house with solar panels on its roof.

All 90 homes in this California community will include solar power systems.
Credit: SunWize Technologies Inc.

Energy-efficient homes that make good use of their solar energy resources are appearing in more and more communities throughout the United States. In Lakeport, California, for instance, a community of 90 energy-efficient solar homes is currently being built. Each home incorporates a 2.5-kilowatt solar power system from SunWize Technologies. The modular homes, built by Faqua in its factory in Oregon, are highly insulated and include low-emissivity windows and Energy Star appliances. The homes are also "affordable" by California standards: only $230,000 each, with the added advantage of low utility bills. See the SunWize press release (PDF 115 KB). Download Acrobat Reader.

DOE and its home building partners are working toward a higher goal: so-called zero energy homes, which over the course of a year produce as much energy as they consume. In July, the fourth near-zero-energy Habitat for Humanity home was completed near Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Located in Lenoir City, the house features an airtight exterior built of structural insulated panels and insulated pre-cast concrete walls, and helps keep cool using roof and wall coatings with infrared reflective pigments. Power from a grid-connected solar power system helps drive a geothermal heat pump that provides efficient space heating and cooling as well as hot water. Built with support from DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the Habitat houses are part of DOE's Building America program. See the ORNL press release.

Zero energy homes are the focus of the Solar Decathlon, a DOE competition in which teams from colleges and universities around the globe converge on Washington, D.C., to build energy-efficient, completely solar-powered homes. Nineteen teams from across the United States, as well as from Canada, Puerto Rico, and Spain, are gearing up for the 2005 competition, which is just over a year away. Find out the latest about the teams and the competition on the Solar Decathlon Web site; a 141-page review of the 2002 Solar Decathlon is also available (PDF 2.1 MB).

While you're waiting for the 2005 Solar Decathlon, an event next month will give you an opportunity to visit solar homes in your own neighborhood. The 2004 National Solar Tour, sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society, will be held on October 2nd. To find solar tours in your area or to help organize a local tour, visit the National Solar Tour Web site.