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September 8, 2011

Meridian First Light, NZ entry in Solar Decathlon 2011

The Meridian First Light is Victoria University of Wellington’s entry into the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011. It is the first entry from the Southern hemisphere to compete in the Solar Decathlon. The Meridian First Light house was built in Wellington, New Zealand earlier this year and shipped to the U.S. for assembly in the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C.

The exterior cladding and timber canopy are made from Western Red Cedar, which is naturally durable, light weight and stable in a variety of climates – an important consideration for a house that needed to be transported across the tropics. The canopy is a key feature of the design, sitting above the water proof layer it gives the house style and aesthetic interest and is also functional.

The canopy provides independent support for the 6kW solar array consisting of 28 polycrystalline photovoltaic panels and 40 evacuated tube solar collectors. Essentially creating a second roof means the membrane roof below remains uncompromised by the supports for the PV panels. In the warmer seasons the canopy provides shade to the large windows below.

The rich mixture of natural wood tones gives the Meridian First Light house a classic New Zealand timber aesthetic. The horizontal cladding is fixed to the modules using an innovative detachable cladding system designed by the Victoria University team.

The Solar Decathlon challenges 20 university teams from around the world to design, build and operate a solar-powered house. The competition provides participants with hands-on training, fosters inter-disciplinary collaboration, inspires innovation and research, and educates the public about the many benefits of renewable energy and energy efficiency. The New Zealand team will be competing against teams from the US, China, Canada and Belgium.

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