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The Green Urban Gingerbread House: Part 1 – The Solar Panels

December 13, 2010

After a successful first foray into gingerbread creation last Christmas (with a gnome-driven gingerbread train), I am working on “taking it up a notch” this year. As an architect I can’t just do the typical gingerbread house, right? Clearly it needs to be an elegantly modern, passive solar urban homestead, with solar panels, green roof, garden beds, chicken coop, and electric car charging station. My son Sofian also wants a train again, so we might have to build a light rail train as well.

I like that it is fun, but also a chance to talk about concepts of sustainability.

So, to begin I have made the solar panels (tastefully constructed from blue shortbread and sugar sprinkles), based on the elegantly beautiful Silicon Energy Cascade Series PV Modules. The panels are a unique design made in Washington State with several innovative benefits:

  • They are designed on a 4’x4’ module, sized to work in typical residential construction (and architects like modules!)
  • The panels overlap like roof shingles, which sheds water and allows for cooling underneath to improve efficiency
  • The silicon chips are completely encased in glass, which makes them highly resistant to moisture and somewhat translucent, which could make them good for awnings

Truly a Pacific Northwest product – designed with our wet climate in mind.

Another benefit of being made in Washington State is that they qualify for hefty production incentives (i.e. the power company pays you 54 cents for every kilowatt you produce), in addition to federal income tax credits and a state sales tax exemption. This means that a $25,000 system can pay for itself in less than 10 years – and after that you enjoy free electricity and an independent power supply. Eric Thomas at Solar Epiphany has been doing a series of free classes, where he explains how the payback works, as well as more detail about systems.

Let me know if you have any ideas for improving the Green Urban Gingerbread House. I’ll be working on the passive solar collection system next (also commonly referred to as windows).

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