The Solar Decathlon, a rigorous, annual competition where students design and build green, solar-powered homes is now back in Washington…but not in its original, prominent location. Many were outraged when the event – which we’re huge fans of and have covered extensively in past years – was suddenly kicked off its home on the National Mall where it has been held before. Luckily, word came in a conference call yesterday that the Department of Energy and Department of Interior will host the event at West Potomac Park, just south of the mall. While not the marquee location the competition has been accustomed to in four previous visits, there is a collective sigh of relief by the teams whose projects were designed specifically for Washington’s climate.
The story began with an awkward statement that the Solar Decathlon would have to find another city to protect the National Mall grass from events that take their toll. The irony was not lost on the participants whose projects are some of the most environmentally sensitive buildings ever conceived. Designed and funded with the intention of being on the mall, the teams have been in limbo on where they will end up. While the announcement of the reconsideration came just as unexpectedly, many voices, from students to senators, chimed in with their dismay.
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu acknowledged the importance of the about-face. “Keeping the competition on the National Mall property allows the students to proceed with their existing home designs, specifically tailored for Washington’s latitude, temperature, and humidity conditions,” he said. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar offered “The National Mall is America’s Front Yard and we have a responsibility to do what is best for the long term health of the Mall. I am pleased that we have been able to find a strong alternate location for the Solar Decathlon and I am looking forward to a successful event.”
While not as prominent of a location as years past, the student teams can focus again on the hard work of designing and showcasing some of the most provocative and high performance homes ever created. Go Solar Decathlon 2011!