Colorado Dome Home – from Astronaut’s Dream House to Educational Facility

This post was originally published in 2013. The tips and techniques explained may be outdated.

Nestled in the foothills just west of Denver in Conifer, Colorado is a home unlike any other in this predominately suburban neighborhood. The 4,049 square foot “Dome Home” was originally built in 1996 by Bilby Wallace, a former astronaut, and sits on 38 beautiful acres at the base of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. 

Ground mounted PV panels installed into the side of a mountain by Southard Solar.

From a Home to a Classroom

The home’s newest owners recently purchased the property to serve as an experiential learning center for a new educational nonprofit. The “Dome Home” will serve as a classroom showcasing the benefits of a renewable energy lifestyle. The passive solar design of the home uses the mountain’s edge and the precise locations of all doors, walls and windows to maximize efficiency. This keeps the home cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Homeowners recently updated the 9 kW PV system to a 15 kW PV system, looking to demonstrate the feasibility of total power independence. The home is completely off-grid and has the ability to fully charge the owners’ two electric vehicles.

Photo Credit: Iron Edison

System Details

The new 15 kW PV system was commissioned by Sunny PRO Club member Southard Solar, a solar expert with more than 20 years’ experience. Southard Solar installed four 3 kW pole mounts, one 3 kW ground mount,  five SMA Sunny Boy 3000-US inverters, two SMA Sunny Island 5048-US inverters, and a 48 V 1000Ah Nickel Iron battery bank by Iron Edison. The expected life of the 25-year Iron Edison nickel-iron battery system is the most environmentally sensitive choice for off-grid and renewable energy storage applications.

 

Exterior of the Dome Home – built into the ledge of the Colorado Rockies.

Monitoring Energy Consumption

The constant monitoring of the home’s energy consumption allows students to learn about managing power use and reducing waste.  A PowerWise energy monitoring system was installed, which enables the homeowner to track exactly where power is being wasted. SMA Sunny Portal sends the homeowner a daily report that details PV production and battery voltage.

Showcasing environmentally-friendly living and conservation were key factors for the owners when purchasing the famous Colorado “Dome Home.” The new owners are looking forward to teaching students young and old that living off-grid is within reach of everyone.

Solar Spotlight aims to highlight SMA inverters in real-world situations. Email us with information about your SMA-powered PV projects at SocialMedia@SMA-America.com 

7 Comments
  1. Kelby Balson
    Kelby Balson says:

    Wow! What an amazing example of what can be done to minimize ones carbon footprint. I’m especially impressed with the use of the Nickel Iron battery for energy storage – with a 25 year lifespan, its hard to believe that more solar installations aren’t using these. Lead acid batteries last something like 5 years – who wants to replace 500 lbs of batteries every 5 years?!

    I also like how the doors are perfectly located for heat/cool based on the season. Good stuff!

    Reply
  2. N Adonis
    N Adonis says:

    What happen the to the original own of the house? I saw the Dome home on Dream on a show called dream house. I thought I would love a home like that.

    Reply

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