U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon | Powered by the Sun

Solar Decathlon 2011

Appalachian State University

The Solar Homestead

Team website: www.thesolarhomestead.com

Appalachian State University was inspired by traditional Appalachian settlements for its U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 entry. Solar Homestead is composed of multiple buildings that form a self-sufficient ensemble. Six outbuilding modules connect to form the Great Porch, an outdoor living space protected by an 8.2-kW trellis of bifacial solar cells. Inside, the 833-ft2 (77-m2) house features two bedrooms, a day-lit bathroom, energy-efficient appliances, and a versatile living and dining area. The Solar Homestead also includes an independent 120-ft2 (11-m2) Flex Space that can be used as a home office, art studio, or guest quarters.

Design Philosophy

The Solar Homestead embodies independence and ingenuity—qualities reflected in the heritage of traditional homesteads. The Solar Homestead fuses these values into an innovative, ultra-efficient house that is adaptable, self-sufficient, affordable, and attractive. The concept of the "modern homestead" is manifested throughout the house.


The Solar Homestead embraces a traditional settlement lifestyle. It is focused around a central living core with collective buildings that adapt to the needs of modern families. Unique features include:

  • Outbuilding modules inspired by lean-to sheds that link to form sheltered outdoor living and work space

  • A generous outdoor living space called the Great Porch that embodies the lifestyle of early settlers

  • The adaptable, conditioned Flex Space, which features a half-bath, outdoor shower, and outdoor kitchen and can serve as a home office, guest suite, or cabin retreat.


The Solar Homestead merges traditional sustainable practices with modern clean-energy technology. Technological solutions include:

  • Forty-two bifacial photovoltaic panels that supply solar energy while providing filtered daylight and protection from the elements

  • An on-demand solar thermal domestic hot water system that uses phase-change materials to provide constant water temperature in compact storage

  • A Trombe wall that is filled with phase-change material to store heat throughout the day and release it at night.

Market Strategy

The Solar Homestead is designed for residents of Asheville, North Carolina. The house meets the needs of this market by providing a secure investment for the experienced homebuyer through energy independence, modular adaptability, and long-lasting, sustainable materials. The combination of renewable technologies and sustainable design provides a distinctive dwelling for the new homesteader—an emerging group that values independence, the land, and the environment.


Jamie Russell
Katherine Harper Hall
397 Rivers St.
Boone, NC 28608
Phone: 828-262-7708

Photo of a group of people in matching shirts standing on a hill overlooking a campus. In front, the team holds two PV panels and a sign that says "The Solar Homestead: Appalachian State University. Appalachian State Solar Decathlon Headquarters." Enlarge image

The Appalachian State University Solar Decathlon team (ourtesy of the Appalachian State University Solar Decathlon team).

Illustration of the Solar Homestead in a mountain setting. A family of three is in the foreground.> Enlarge image

A computer-generated rendering of Appalachian State University's Solar Homestead (courtesy of the Appalachian State University Solar Decathlon team).

A video walkthrough of Appalachian State University's Solar Decathlon Solar Decathlon house.

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