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Photo of Cornell University's Solar Decathlon 2007 house viewed from the southeast in its permanent location near New York's Finger Lakes.Enlarge image

Light Canopy's owners made additions to the house that honored the decathletes' original vision.
(Courtesy of Mike Koplinka-Loehr)

Who: Cornell University
What: Light Canopy
Lansing, NY 14882
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Public tours: Open for the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s Green Buildings Open House Tours each fall

Solar Decathlon 2007

Cornell University: Living the Good (Solar) Life

The Cornell University team auctioned off its solar-powered house, Light Canopy, to a private buyer after competing in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2007. The Koplinka-Loehr family now resides in the house at its permanent location on the southeastern shore of New York's Cayuga Lake.

Mike and Carrie Koplinka-Loehr made an offer on Cornell's 2005 house but were not the highest bidder. They used their research and experience to bid on the 2007 house—only to be outbid again. However, their family's dream of living in the countryside and "off the grid" came true when the auction winner sold them the house in February 2008.

Light Canopy was designed to be highly efficient as well as easy to maintain and upgrade. Indeed, the Koplinka-Loehrs decided to upgrade the house to suit their needs. They added a full basement, remodeled the bathroom, and installed new plumbing once the lot was ready.

In August 2009, a graduate student in Cornell's engineering program moved into the house. He monitored the house's systems, added new sensors, and tinkered with the computer program while living there during the school year. In August 2010, the Koplinka-Loehrs moved into Light Canopy themselves.

The Koplinka-Loehrs offer tours of the house through the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association each fall. In addition, they have hosted community groups and Cornell student classes so that Light Canopy can remain an educational resource. "We even kept the display boards from the competition," says Mike.