Originally built for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2007, Penn State's MorningStar PA house is now located on campus at the Center for Sustainability. The house will be closed to the public until July 2011 while the center adds a basement for office and laboratory space.
Penn State began working on sustainable projects in 1999. Eight years later, the university sent its first team to the Solar Decathlon. The MorningStar PA house placed fourth overall in the 2007 competition and achieved top-5 finishes in five contests.
While MorningStar PA was on the National Mall, its sister project—called MorningStar Montana—was settling into its new home at Chief Dull Knife College in Lame Deer, Montana. This similar, but more affordable, version of the house became the first all-solar residence built on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Meanwhile, more good news came to Washington, D.C. David Riley, associate professor of architectural engineering, got a call from the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association awarding the team a $560,000 grant to fund the final development of the project.
Morningstar PA was reconstructed at the university visitor's center during summer 2008. Located right across from Beaver Stadium, the house was open for public tours by appointment and after football games by the fall semester. It continued to be used for meetings, events, and classes over the next year and a half. At this point, the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association grant facilitated the move of MorningStar PA from the visitor's center to its permanent site at the Center for Sustainability.
The house's impact continues to grow. Penn State has secured an additional $8.5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. The university will continue its work on renewable energy through the solar instructor training network and the Smart Grid workforce training program.
"The students and faculty who entered the Solar Decathlon led to these projects," says Riley. "Their impact has been amazing."