Rice Owls Light Up a Rainy Day With Solar Energy

This blog was written by John D. Wilson, former Deputy Director for Regulatory Policy at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | October 19, 2009 | Energy Policy

“The sun was not shining, it was too wet too  play . . .” but the ZEROW House was still generating away!

With apologies to Dr. Seuss, I have to put in a big plug for the students of Rice University (my alma mater) and the other Solar Decathlon teams that braved a “stunning streak of record cold, sopping wet weather” to show off some fantastic homes. My wife, three kids, and I joined a crowd (seriously) of people who braved the rain to check out the houses.

At left, I’m holding an umbrella to keep the rain off of one of the ZEROW House guides showing me the utility meter. In spite of the days of lousy weather, the solar panels were still generating electricity and the meter was still showing that the house was a net generator of electricity.

Opponents of energy policy reform claim that “hot and humid conditions” limit solar energy’s potential to “niche generation in the Southeast.” Well, Rice University helped show that solar can work on a cold, rainy day in October in a mid-Atlantic state, “proving that zero energy can be attained at a modest price and without compromising aesthetics or functionality“!

My wife and kids also really enjoyed the houses. I’m the energy geek in the house. My wife loved the LED lighting in the Rice house, which can be quite cost-effective in new construction. The kids thought the TV that pulled out of the wall in the Ohio house was pretty cool.

We also liked the vines growing up the “green wall.” We planted these same vines on our house in Houston and know how beautiful their flowers are all spring and summer.

By the way, if the electric meter wasn’t a digital, I would have named this post “Spinning in the Rain.” But maybe that is too nerdy and obscure . . .

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