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Solar Cooling Installed At Santa Clara University's Solar Decathlon House

September 10, 2010
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California’s first micro-concentrator solar cooling demonstration was recently installed at Santa Clara University’s Solar Decathlon House, a solar-powered house that won third place in the 2007 contest.

California’s first micro-concentrator (MCT) solar cooling demonstration was recently installed at Santa Clara University’s Solar Decathlon House, a solar-powered house that won third place in the 2007 contest. Industrial rooftop solar solutions company Chromasun partnered with solar thermal technology company SunWater Solar to provide clean, renewable thermal energy for air conditioning, space heating and hot water.

The low-profile, utility-scale MCT module is a flat-panel solar thermal collector that can achieve a concentration of 25 times the sun using lightweight, highly reflective mirrors, which pivot in unison to follow the sun, Chromasun stated.  Solar energy is collected from the mirrors by a selectively coated, stainless-steel receiver pipe to efficiently generate temperatures in fluid (such as water and saturated steam) up to 220 degrees C (428 degrees F).

The MCT is rooftop-mounted on similar racking systems as conventional solar thermal collectors.

“We can use this technology to demonstrate and explain to students newer ways to collect solar thermal energy, and collect and measure data in real time,” said Professor Timothy Hight, department chair of mechanical engineering at SCU.

“Solar thermal technology is already proven as a cost-effective way to heat water for commercial and industrial facilities,” said Justin Weil, president of SunWater Solar. “Our work with Chromasun is demonstrating that solar thermal is also an efficient way to cool large buildings, which brings the technology’s financial and environmental benefits to an innovative new application.”

The 2007 solar-powered house at Santa Clara University is the result of a collaboration between more than 80 students from the university’s engineering school. The house generates enough electricity to run a modern household. The solar house is located on campus and serves as a demonstration project for area schools and students interested in alternative energy, and learning about sustainability challenges and solutions.

2011 Solar Decathlon Student Teams

The next Solar Decathlon held at the National Mall in Washington is scheduled for fall 2011.  Twenty collegiate teams were selected to compete:

  • Appalachian State University (Boone, N.C.)

  • City College of New York (New York)

  • Florida International University (Miami)

  • Florida State University, University of Central Florida, University of Florida and University of South Florida (Tallahassee, Orlando, Gainesville and Tampa, Fla.)

  • Ghent University (Ghent, Belgium)

  • Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and University of Massachusetts at Lowell (Boston and Lowell, Mass.)

  • Middlebury College (Middlebury, Vt.)

  • Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio)

  • Old Dominion University and Hampton University (Norfolk and Hampton, Va.)

  • Purdue University (West Lafayette, Ind.)

  • Rutgers the State University of New Jersey and New Jersey Institute of Technology (New Brunswick and Newark, N.J.)

  • Southern California Institute of Architecture and California Institute of Technology (Los Angeles and Pasadena, Calif.)

  • Stevens Institute of Technology and The New School (Hoboken, N.J., and New York)

  • Tongji University (Shanghai, China)

  • University of Calgary (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)

  • University of Hawaii (Honolulu)

  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Champaign, Ill.)

  • University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)

  • University of Tennessee (Knoxville, Tenn.)

  • Victoria University of Wellington (Wellington, New Zealand)


The selected teams and their projects represent a diverse range of design approaches, building technologies and geographic locations, climates and regions - including urban, suburban and rural settings. They also aim to reach a broad range of target housing markets, including low-income, disaster relief and retirement.

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