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Photo of CUSD Zero Energy House on the Alexander property in Lansing, New York. Enlarge image

The Cornell Solar Decathlon 2005 house is the place of choice for guests visiting the Alexander family.
(Courtesy of John Alexander)

Who: Cornell University
What: CUSD Zero Energy House
Private residence
Lansing, NY 14882
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Public tours: Not available

Solar Decathlon 2005

Cornell University: Going, Going, Gone

Cornell University's entry to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2005, called the CUSD Zero Energy House, was sold at auction to a private buyer. It now serves as a guest house on the shore of Cayuga Lake about 15 miles from campus.

Cornell had initially planned to offer the house for sale at a set price, but decided to host an auction because of the overwhelming public response. On April 7, 2006, a group of 22 bidders gathered on the university's Ag Quad, where the house had been temporarily rebuilt. The bidding started at $50,000. In less than half an hour, the house sold for $121,000 to an alumnus who participated in the auction remotely.

John Alexander, the lucky buyer of CUSD Zero Energy House, is a former physics major who has always had an interest in solar technology. Over the previous two years, he had gotten to know the Solar Decathlon team personally as a university trustee supporting the project.

"It has worked out perfectly for us," says Alexander.

His children, who went to Cornell as well, have used the house as a residence. It was also rented out for a time while the family traveled abroad.

"The house is the place of choice for anyone who comes to visit. It is completely operable in less than five minutes," Alexander says.

For the most part, the house remains just as the students designed it. Still generating more power than it needs, the house also provides electricity for another nearby structure. In addition, a grid connection allows for excess energy to be sold back to the local utility company. Alexander invites interested Cornell students to come experiment with retrofitting the house—particularly the control system, which needs updating.