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Photo of Maryland's solar house surrounded by wildflowers at Red Wiggler Community Farm. Enlarge image

The folks at Red Wiggler sometimes refer to the University of Maryland's solar-powered house as "the 21st-century farmhouse" because it shares the property with a farmhouse built in the 1800s.
(Courtesy of Woody Woodruff)

Who: University of Maryland
What: Solar house
Red Wiggler Community Farm
PO Box 968
Clarksburg, MD 20871
Map This House

Public tours: Contact the Red Wiggler Community Farm at 301-916-2216 for tour information.

Solar Decathlon 2005

University of Maryland: Farming Solar Energy

The University of Maryland team wanted its solar-powered house to have a life beyond the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2005. That's why the university worked with the Montgomery County Park and Planning Commission to find a community partner that would benefit from this donation.

The house's equally lucky and grateful recipient was Red Wiggler Community Farm in Clarksburg, Maryland. This small, nonprofit organization operates a community-supported agriculture program using sustainable agriculture practices. The farm provides meaningful jobs for developmentally disabled adults who plant, tend, and harvest more than 40 varieties of fruits and vegetables.

The solar house, which received the Solar Decathlon 2005 People's Choice Award, arrived at Red Wiggler in October 2005. Student decathletes were on hand to assist in the reconstruction of the house and showed exceptional commitment to seeing the project through to completion. Multiple other community partners contributed their help on jobs such as connecting the 51-panel solar array to the grid and installing a septic system.

Aside from some functional changes, such as replacing the original HVAC system with a "mini-split" system and making minor shelving improvements, the house remains much as it was on the National Mall. On average, it generates 7,875 kW and uses 7,375 kW each year. The 500-kW surplus generates a small revenue for the organization through its power company's net metering program.

In 2011, Red Wiggler discovered a new use for the solar house. The farm converted its 1947 Allis Chalmers G cultivating tractor, affectionately called "the G," into a battery-powered electric motor, which is charged by the house's photovoltaic panels.

Woody Woodroof, founder of Red Wiggler, is the house's resident caretaker. Every year, he welcomes more than 1,000 visitors to the farm to see the house and hear its story. Considered among the greenest homes in the Washington, D.C., area, the house is a featured stop on the regional D.C. solar homes tour each October.