Constructing green energy solutions

By Rabiya Mansoor

University of Calgary students won sixth place in a competition to build solar powered homes. The Solar Decathlon, which wrapped up Oct. 16 in Washington, D.C., showcased 20 teams from around the world. Homes were assessed on everything from market viability to architecture in the biennial competition.

The SolAbode project also included students and faculty from SAIT, Mount Royal University and the Alberta College of Art and Design. Project manager Matt Beck recalled the effort required to construct the energy-efficient home.

“It’s was a ton of blood, sweat and tears to get to sixth place,” said Beck. “We were competing against teams from areas with much more developed solar industries, government support and experience. It was through our team’s unique combination of trades, engineering and design talent that we were able to produce a great house.”

SolAbode’s mechanical team leader, Halley O’Byrne, agreed the competition called for an interdisciplinary blend of ideas to make the house a success.

“This was a wonderful opportunity for some very bright people to cross paths who would never have otherwise come together,” said O’Byrne. “It was challenging at times, but this unprecedented combination proved to be a real asset. We got to work with electricians, plumbers and controls technicians from SAIT and got to see how things are done in the field versus how they look on paper.”

The central component of the competition — constructing environmentally friendly solutions for the future — drew both Beck and O’Byrne to the SolAbode project.

“I have always had a passion for green solutions to challenges we face in society,” said Beck.

“Energy distribution and generation have some serious challenges that will be very obvious in the coming years.”

“When I began working on this project as a second-year engineering student, I was interested in green technology,” said O’Byrne. “I also wanted to get involved with a project that would give me real world, hands-on experience. When the idea for the Solar Decathlon came up, it was just the opportunity I was looking for.”

With the project completed after more than two years, O’Byrne is satisfied with the work.

“It has been an incredible journey, one full of excitement, frustration, lots of hard work and fun,” said O’Byrne. “Looking back over the last two-and-a-half years, I feel very proud of what we were able to accomplish together.”

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