Last updated: January 13. 2014 11:13AM - 2408 Views
Christina Day Staff Writer cday@civitasmedia.com

The “Solar Homestead” designed and constructed by ASU students and purchased by an Ashe County resident Sandra Phillips, seen in display at the 2011 Solar Decathlon in Washington, DC.
The “Solar Homestead” designed and constructed by ASU students and purchased by an Ashe County resident Sandra Phillips, seen in display at the 2011 Solar Decathlon in Washington, DC.
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A modern zero-energy solar house inspired by early Appalachian pioneers has found a “home” in Ashe County.

The “Solar Homestead,” constructed by Appalachian State University students as part of the 2011 U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, was purchased by Sandra Phillips of West Jefferson in November.

The Department of Energy biennially selects 20 international collegiate teams to design and construct solar-powered homes which are judged based on criteria such as consumer appeal and energy efficiency.

ASU’s Solar Homestead won the “People’s Choice” award at the 2011 Solar Decathlon, and local media coverage piqued Phillips’ interest in the home.

“Newspapers in the High Country provided good coverage of the home in its construction and national competition phase for the 2011 Solar Decathlon,” Phillips said, “I suppose local pride caused me to remain interested in the home and its final disposition.”

ASU began accepting bids for the home, appraised at $220,000 in November, and Phillips bid of $15,000, the only one received by the university, was accepted.

The design of the 864 square-foot home was inspired by the “traditional Appalachian settlements” and the “efficiency of mountain living,” according the Department of Energy.

Phillips said the homestead’s construction is similar to that of a modular home, with independent steel frames, but unique from most homes in its reliance on clean-energy technology.

“The home is designed and engineered to provide electricity with its photo-voltaic solar system, passive solar heat through proper [directional] orientation and a solar thermal water heater,” Phillips said, adding that energy usage for all lighting in the house is supposed to be equivalent to the energy used by one 100-watt light bulb.

Because her family’s business, Phillips Appraisals, Inc. in West Jefferson, has been involved with and advocated for alternative energy homes, Phillips said buying the solar homestead was their way of “putting our money where our mouths are.”

Phillips said she anticipates the homestead, which is now disassembled on campus at ASU in Boone, will be constructed on site just outside of West Jefferson in the near future.

“If there is interest on the part of Appalachian State University, I plan to make the home available for some research on the long-term benefits of the components and to assist them in improving design for future homes for solar competition projects,” Phillips said.

Dr. Jamie Russell, ASU faculty advisory to the Solar Decathlon team said he was not aware of this offer, but called it “an interesting research possibility.”

Greg Lovins, Vice Chancellor of Business Affairs at ASU, said at its December 13, 2013 meeting, “the Board of Trustees of the ASU Endowment Fund approved applying the proceeds from the sale of the Solar Homestead to our entry in the Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 competition.”

“Maison Reciprocity,” ASU’s 2014 Solar Decathlon entry done in partnership with Université d’Angers in France, is based on a row house design concept and will compete in June and July in Versailles, France.

Phillips said she hopes her Solar Homestead will be part of a movement towards more alternative energy structures nationwide.

“We need to think outside the box and try to harness the energy of the environment that we live in. We need to work toward sustainability, figuring out how to relate to our environment and use the natural resources that are available to achieve that sustainability,” Phillips said, “Our future depends on it.”

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