In 1976, at the request of the Energy Research and Development Administration, MIT Lincoln Laboratory initiated a six-year program to design and test solar-photovoltaic systems for residential applications. This was an unusual project for Lincoln because it did not involve the development of new technology. Nonetheless, the Lab’s engineers produced significant innovations. In 1979, Lincoln commissioned Solar Design Associates to design and build a 3,200 square foot energy-efficient, passive solar residence powered by photovoltaics. The Carlisle Solar House was the first inhabited energy-independent house ever built. During the design and construction process, it became clear that the project’s success also would require developing unique arrangements with utility companies and with the state regulatory agencies. “Net Metering” is a fundamental legal innovation that allows the homeowner and the utility to “sell” electricity back and forth, and it has proven as crucial to the success of solar photovoltaics as any technological invention.
The model of the Carlisle Solar House is on loan from Solar Design Associates.