With a facade covered in PV tiles supplementing an 11.1-kW rooftop solar array, Team Germany was the only team to earn a perfect score in the net-metering portion of the competition, which also propelled them to a first-place finish overall. The 250 thin-film copper indium gallium diselenide panels are less efficient than the rooftop silicon modules, but will perform better on cloudy days, according to the team.

With a facade covered in PV tiles supplementing an 11.1-kW rooftop solar array, Team Germany was the only team to earn a perfect score in the net-metering portion of the competition, which also propelled them to a first-place finish overall. The 250 thin-film copper indium gallium diselenide panels are less efficient than the rooftop silicon modules, but will perform better on cloudy days, according to the team.

Credit: Jim Tetro

Penn States Natural Fusion house features PV panels from Solyndra, whose modules boast a cylindrical design that the manufacturer says captures 360 degrees of direct, diffuse, and reflected light. This format also allows the panels to be installed horizontally rather than tilted, providing for a more streamlined look. A green roof under PSUs 5.1-kW array helps keep the panels cool while reflecting light.

Penn State’s Natural Fusion house features PV panels from Solyndra, whose modules boast a cylindrical design that the manufacturer says captures 360 degrees of direct, diffuse, and reflected light. This format also allows the panels to be installed horizontally rather than tilted, providing for a more streamlined look. A green roof under PSU’s 5.1-kW array helps keep the panels cool while reflecting light.

Credit: Jim Tetro

Team Spains 11-kW PV array sits on a central ball joint that, along with a series of cables, allows the roof to pivot with the sun for maximum collection efficiency throughout the day. According to the team, the tracking brings an additional 10.3% power versus a stationary setup. The solar tracking is fully automated, as is a safety mechanism that brings the roof to a horizontal position in a high-wind event or power outage.

Team Spainís 11-kW PV array sits on a central ball joint that, along with a series of cables, allows the roof to pivot with the sun for maximum collection efficiency throughout the day. According to the team, the tracking brings an additional 10.3% power versus a stationary setup. The solar tracking is fully automated, as is a safety mechanism that brings the roof to a horizontal position in a high-wind event or power outage.

Credit: Jim Tetro

Every two years, university teams converge on Washington, D.C., and transform the National Mall into a solar village of homes that showcase innovation in energy creation and efficiency, inspire the next generation of green architects and engineers, and spread the sustainability message to an eager public. The 20 homes in the 2009 Solar Decathlon, a Department of Energy–sponsored event held Oct. 8–18, were self-sustaining, combining rooftop-mounted and building-integrated photovoltaics and solar thermal systems with passive solar design features, energy-efficient building envelopes and products, and high-performance construction. The teams also incorporated water conservation, resource-efficient products, and locally obtained materials, and focused on indoor air quality, occupant comfort, and market feasibility.

As in years past, the 2009 competition was a proving ground for a number of new energy-generating technologies, including introductions from manufacturers and proprietary designs by the students themselves. Here are three of those innovations. For more on all the homes in the 2009 competition, visit ecohomemagazine.com and search “Decathlon.” —Katy Tomasulo; additional reporting by Nigel F. Maynard