Skip navigation to main content. U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon | Powered by the Sun
Photo of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth house and wind turbine on the McKechnie property. Enlarge image

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Solar Decathlon 2005 house works in conjunction with a residential wind turbine to provide clean energy for the McKechnie property in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.
(Courtesy of Mike McKechnie)

Who: University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
What: Solar House
McKechnie family home
Berkeley Springs, WV 25411
Map This House

Public tours: Call 304-258-4320 for tour information.

Solar Decathlon 2005

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth: Bringing Solar to Coal Country

The solar house designed by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2005 was originally intended for Habitat for Humanity but now serves as a private residence and demonstration home for the owners of Mountain View Builders in Morgan County, West Virginia.

How the house ended up there is a story that involves both chance and fate. Green-building contractors Mike McKechnie and his brother Pete wanted to purchase a Solar Decathlon house so they could show potential Mountain View customers that renewable energy technology is effective and viable. So they sent an e-mail to all the 2005 teams to inquire about purchasing a house.

Of the three responses they received, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth house seemed to be the best fit. The team's plans to donate the house to Habitat for Humanity fell through at the last minute because of permitting and zoning issues. The McKechnies arrived on the National Mall with a check ready. After working out a verbal agreement with the team, Mountain View Builders left the event with a new house.

"This was our dream," says Mike. "It was so perfect, it had to be. That's just how things have been going for us since then."

The McKechnies made several changes to the house during reconstruction. They added a second story and gave it a more traditional 1970s style so people would see it as a familiar-looking home. They also added a 107-ft wind generator, which provides about 75% of the home's energy supply in combination with the solar panels.

More than 500 people came to the open house on July 12, 2008. Since then, many other groups—from second graders to the local health department—have toured the McKechnie home. Mike encourages everyone to come see the house. "Just look for the windmill. If you miss it, you shouldn't be driving," he says.

Mike hopes that Mountain View can help bring about change in his community. Having recently installed a solar hot water system just 6 miles from the coal mine that collapsed in April 2010, Mike sees renewable energy as an important initiative in West Virginia. Mountain View is also working with the JOBS Project to train former coal mining contractors in solar installation.

"Solar energy is not something that is getting ready to happen. It is happening right now," Mike says.