Norwich, Middlebury students compete in solar house contest - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Norwich, Middlebury students compete in solar house contest

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NORTHFIELD, Vt. -

Norwich University and Middlebury College are competing next year in a major international competition to design, build and operate solar powered houses.

From an unfinished pre-fab shell of a home that arrived on the Norwich campus last month, to its envisioned future.

A team of 28 Norwich University students are designing and building the Delta T-90, a solar house for the common man.

The University, along with Middlebury College, were two of the 20 teams picked from around the world to take part in next year's Solar Decathlon. The U.S. Department of Energy sponsored contest covers 10 different categories -- everything from architecture to market appeal. The Norwich students chose affordability.

"We talked about it, we sat down and we said we can make something off the charts and really high tech but we looked around, it was just after Irene, we were kind of talking about it, and we decided we need to make a difference and this is the best way we knew to go about it," says Norwich senior Caleb Burrington.

"The students are really driving this project. I'm serving as a guard rail to make sure the project doesn't go off the cliff someplace, but they're really driving it," says Matt Lutz with Norwich University.

The main object for the winning team is that each home must produce as much or more energy than it consumes. To do that, everything in this 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom home -- from the windows to the R-48 insulated structure -- is super energy efficient

The team is using new, thin film, peel and stick solar panels that will feed more than seven kilowatts into the grid -- more than enough to power all the mechanical systems, even if the roof is covered with snow three months out of the year.

And true to the university's founding principals of hands-on-learning, the project enlisted departments across campus -- from architecture and electrical engineering - to marketing.

"We're not just showing how a solar-powered house is constructed, we're showing how a solar-powered house is designed, constructed, delivered to the public and sold," Lutz says.

"I get to come out here actually and see how things are built and how a project -- typical delays, typical things that go wrong. You get to see hands on exactly what goes on in construction," says junior Brad Paiskier.

Last year Middlebury students finished fourth in the decathalon in Washington D.C. The team's new design for the competition will focus on the principles of a centralized community that reduces demands on transportation.

The Norwich team has its work cut out for it.

The house must be finished by July and shipped to Irvine, California in time for the October competition.

"I think we're going to contribute to changing the discussion of solar powered housing in the U.S.," Lutz says. "We can show that there isn't magic behind solar power. It's off the shelf, its ready and it works, and it can be affordable."

The price-tag on the Norwich solar house, when it is completed, is expected to run about $145,000.

If you're interested in buying the Norwich solar house -- mlutz@norwich.edu

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