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Solar power

Solar house takes on a temporary resident to test its livability

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 by: M.T. Whitney
Tags: solar power, alternative energy, green living


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(NewsTarget) A house powered entirely by solar panels in the Commonwealth of Virginia has a new temporary resident: a state senator.

State Sen. Frank Wagner, Virginia Beach-R, moved in on January 24. The house, which took engineering students and faculty from Virginia Tech 2.5 years to design and build, is a small casa situated next to the Science Museum of Virginia, located in Richmond.

The 800-square foot house is a creation from 2005 that was relocated to the museum's property so the state senator could live there for a week. It was built for, and won fourth place overall in, the 2005 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Wagner's role is to be a guinea pig of sorts: he is testing whether the solar house can collect enough electricity during sunlight hours to run a full gamut of household appliances in a livable environment. Wagner's digs include a computer, kitchen appliances and both heating and cooling systems.

The Associated Press reported that no major troubles had occurred as of his second day living there.

Wagner, known as a promoter of alternative energy, offered to live in the house after seeing it at a Virginia Tech exhibition.

Living there, the Republican state senator can control most of the appliances via remote control. The roof of the house is built in the spirit of a V-shaped airplane wing, and is decked out with 36 adjustable 200-watt SunPower photovoltaic (PV) panels.

The house also includes engineering features in every corner, from the choice of eucalyptus wood for the floor that expands and contracts in reaction to the outside temperature to "walls that transmit diffused light while delivering great insulation," says the Virginia Tech web site.

The house has been featured on television shows such as PBS' "This Old House" and ABC's "Extreme Makeover," among other media.

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