Net Zero Homes, Solar Panels Get NIST Testing

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) may be ancient history as far as many Americans are concerned, but stimulus funding is still delivering new green building, renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The case in point being two new National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) facilities slated for the federal agency’s Gaithersburg, Maryland, campus, funded through the ARRA.

NIST’s new Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility is designed to be a testbed for new home-scale energy technologies. Resembling the typcial Maryland single-family suburban home, it will incorporate energy-saving appliances and design (as well as solar power) to minimize its carbon footprint and to generate at as much energy as it uses. Over the course of a yearlong demonstration period, appliances, lights, and kitchen and bathroom fixtures will be controlled by a computer to simulate a family of four living in the home.

NIST net zero home

image via Building Science Corporation

The second project is an array of  2,500 solar power modules which, when complete, will feed power directly into the grid, generating more than 700 megawatt-hours of electricity on an annual basis (enough to power 67 homes). The system will also provide researchers with data that will be used to develop models to better predict the energy output of photovoltaic modules and arrays.

NIST broke ground on both projects–as well as an expanded version of its National Fire Research Laboratory–on March 25th of this year.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.