Skip to main content

Winning Swiss solar powered ‘Solar Decathlon’ home wants to feed, clean and protect you

Four Swiss universities came together to build the US Department of Energy’s 2017 Solar Decathlon overall winner. Eleven teams competed over the course of two years to build a home taking into account modern global demands of “reliability, resilience, and security.”

The Swiss schools – École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, School of Engineering and Architecture Fribourg, Geneva University of Art and Design, and the University of Fribourg – scored perfect 100’s in energy, architecture and engineering categories.

The first Solar Decathlon occurred in 2002. There are further international contests in Africa, China, Europe, Latin America & Caribbean, and the Middle East.

Per the judges, the Swiss team “best blended smart energy production with innovation, market potential, and energy and water efficiency.” The Swiss design philosophy was to “create a shared space that helps to build and sustain the community around it.” With this the home creates electricity and heats water directly from sunlight. It contains two greenhouses with fish farms integrated. The roof collects water and grows food. The large open areas are partially designed to be a flexible space to host local shop for nearby farmers to sell their wares, or meeting rooms, or maybe your own business.

The current version of the home is estimated to cost about $800,000 to build, but as you can see, it’s more than a “house”.

There is a lot of solar hardware at play in this home –

  • Solar panels –
    • SunPower model SPR-X21-335-BLK, 29 units – 9.7kW total
    • H-Glass – bifacial dye sensitive graetzel solar cell 6W panel. “For the H-Glass W50Red, there are used as a new kind of solar integration. The transparency offer different possibilities and in our project we choose to put aquaponics system (on the east) or vertical garden (on the west facade) behind the glasses. The panels produce some energy for the water pump of the aquaponics system. I send you 2 pictures (see below) to better understand how we use it and how we integrate it.” – the team told
  • Inverters – SolarEdge – two SE2200H and one SE3500H
  • Multiple battery types
    • Lithium Ion energy storage by the BMZ Group – 6.74 kWh total/5.39/kWh accessible
    • 12.8V Lithium Iron phosphate batteries – 60-300Ah – used for ‘independent systems’
    • Ultracell 12V 7AH – battery backup for fire protection (generally you’d find this battery inside of an exit sign)
  • Solar thermal panels for water and space heating – 6 units – the students custom-built their solar thermal panels.
  • Solar glazing on the skylights and other glass surfaces

The electrical drawings talk significantly of smart lighting (LEDs) and their associated management systems.

In the Energy Contest portion of the program, the Swiss team scored a perfect 100. The goal of this contest was two-fold – first to produce more energy than you used, and secondly to produce the energy when it was most valuable to the grid (peak demand vs overnight). Using the Department of Energy’s calculations – the Swiss team ended up more profitable than any other ground with buying/selling of energy. They netted the second most amount of total energy.

There’s also a Foosball table.

Electrek’s Take

The house’s solar qualities are great. 9.7kW of PV for electricity main usage, 36W for independent systems (and in places where the solar panel is dual used for crops), energy storage for main usage and safety purposes, solar thermal for hot water and house heating, plus conscientious glazing of external glass. These are the base features that a net zero energy home will need to consider. Heating, cooling, lighting and electricity for stuff are our main energy usage challenges – this house wraps around them all tightly.

The home has space to grow food, hardware to manage waste and process water internally. You could probably drop this structure somewhere in the woods all alone and live like royalty. As noted though, even with all of the efficiency accounted for and off grid capabilities, the design was made to integrate into a local power grid and water structure.

This home really is the hub of a neighborhood – it can feed itself and its neighbors with food, water and energy – the fundamentals of life.

Audiovisual presentation submitted to the US DOE by the Swiss team as part of the project –

Considering residential solar?  will connect you with local contractors. Tweet me to pick apart quote.

For more electric vehicle, autonomous transport and clean technology news, make sure to follow us on TwitterNewsletterRSS or Facebook to get our latest articles.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

You’re reading Electrek— experts who break news about Tesla, electric vehicles, and green energy, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow Electrek on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our YouTube channel for the latest reviews.