Background Information

Tyson Research Center is a remote field research facility of Washington University in St. Louis that experiences frequent electrical outages due to grid failures, inhibiting its ability to carry out vital research. Tyson aspires to develop a more reliable power system while minimizing their carbon footprint in the process.

In 2017, WashU’s Solar Decathlon team designed the CRETE House, a residential unit that was to be permanently installed at the Tyson Research Center. However, after competing in the Solar Decathlon, the project was demolished and materials, including an array of 31 SunPower solar panels and a Tesla Powerwall, were left in possession of Tyson.

The purpose of this project is to determine a cost-efficient way to incorporate these  components salvaged from the CRETE house into Tyson’s campus in order to reduce their grid reliance and further their commitment to environmental preservation. 

We partnered with EFS Energy, a local St. Louis Solar Design Company, to gain experience using industry-grade solar design software and receive guidance for the installation process of the system. 


Design an emergency backup system that employs the existing solar PV energy to power critical loads in the Tyson LLC during multi-day outages

  • Utilize industry-grade software to model and design a battery backup system in an existing building system
  • Engage future students by allowing the system to be a platform for education around solar energy and battery backup systems
  • Minimize cost and utilize existing materials to the fullest extent
  • Demonstrate return on initial investment

Implement a new solar PV system to supplement the existing arrays that provide power to the Tyson HQ and Lab buildings to help move Tyson towards their long-term goal of net-zero energy

  • Utilize industry-grade software to model and design PV system layout
  • Estimate PV system power generation to perform building load analysis
  • Implement the designed system to compare actual power output and system efficacy to theoretical calculations
  • Minimize costs and utilize existing materials to the fullest extent
  • Demonstrate return on initial investment

Expand Tyson's renewable framework towards the long-term goal of a net-zero campus

  • Reduce net power consumption of the HQ
  • Assess viability of a complete net-zero system for the HQ
  • Suggest future system additions to continue work towards net-zero goal