CU's solar house gets a home

CU's entry in the U.S. Solar Decathalon.

The mood was bittersweet when I left the U.S. Solar Decathlon in Washington D.C. a year ago. The University of Colorado team I’d been following didn’t get the three-peat – a third consecutive first place victory – they’d been hoping for in the international competition to design and build a solar house; they came in seventh. But as pointed out in "Partly Sunny," our feature about the squad, a third-place showing in engineering validated the innovative heating and cooling system participants had created for the house, and they knew their work was going to serve a greater post-competition purpose. Xcel Energy, which had purchased the house, was planned to make it a permanent demonstration.

Over the coming months, the house would spend a lot of time in limbo. When it first got back to Colorado, the team didn’t have enough money left in its budget to crane it back together on CU’s main campus, where they were going to display it until Xcel decided what to do with it. Instead, the house sat in pieces for weeks at a construction site in Westminster before being re-assembled and opening at CU. And this summer it even spent a week in Denver, on display during the Democratic National Convention.

Then, last week, the house’s final home was finally made official. The 2007 CU solar house is going to be part of the Solar Technology Acceleration Center, or SolarTAC, in Aurora. The project -- a collaboration between Abengoa Solar, the city of Aurora, the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, Midwest Research Institute, SunEdison and Xcel Energy – will create one of the world’s largest solar test and evaluation facilities. Member companies, which are still being recruited, will be able to bring new technologies to the facility for testing and demonstration. SolarTAC is partnering with the state, its four major research universities and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, and it will also be able to house research sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The 74-acre site will be developed over the next three years. One of the first buildings will be for Abengoa Solar to begin equipment testing on a new proprietary solar system in the next few months. Early next year, SunEdison will begin developing a site for testing photovoltaic systems.

The CU solar house will serve as an exhibit and SolarTac’s visitor’s center. -- Jessica Centers