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Solar Decathlon Kicked from National Mall

Solar Decathlon
Student Henning Zimmer of Team Germany, sets the last solar panel on his team's house during the 2009 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Monday, Oct. 05, 2009. (Photo by Stefano Paltera/US Dept. of Energy Solar Decathlon)

The Secretaries of Energy and Interior have announced that the national Solar Decathlon will no longer be held at the National Mall. The heavy equipment used to produce the event is being blamed for damaging the Mall's turf.

The Solar Decathlon challenges 20 collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

The fall competition will be the fifth held – all four previous challenges (2002, 2005, 2007, 2009) were held on "America's front yard." In 2009 the vent drew around 200,000 people.

The announcement has drawn criticism. 12 U.S. senators have signed a letter asking the Secretaries of the Interior and Energy to put the event back at the National Mall.

“The National Mall is the only sensible venue to host the Solar Decathlon,” wrote the Senators. “The first four wildly successful events were held on the Mall from 2002-2009 and the event grew in popularity each year. As a tourist attraction, it has provided the perfect venue for thousands to learn about solar energy and energy efficiency. And as a central pillar in our quest for clean energy, solar energy deserves a venue that sits adjacent to our country’s legislative leaders.”

The students competing were also disappointed in the change of venue.

"Throughout, we've all been dreaming about building these solar-powered houses on the Mall," Addison Godine, a senior on the Middlebury College team, told Greenwire. "Any other location seems like it will be less."

The DOE Solar Decathlon released this message regarding the location change:

Over the years, the National Mall—the nation’s front yard—has played host to many large, public events, which have impacted the long-term health of the National Mall. In support of the historic effort underway to protect, improve, and restore the National Mall, the Department of Energy, in conjunction with the National Park Service, has decided to seek a new site for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011.

The National Mall, a great American treasure, has served as a unique launching pad for the Solar Decathlon, hosting the first four events from 2002 to 2009. 

During each Solar Decathlon, student teams from around the world design and build highly efficient, solar-powered homes to be thoroughly tested, expertly judged, and publically displayed during an intense few weeks in the fall of the competition year.  Each of the decathlons held over the years has grown, attracting more and more public interest.  People come from all over to be inspired by the students’ creativity and to learn about clean energy solutions for their own homes.

The Department of Energy is presently researching alternative venues to hold the event this fall, and will announce the selected location in the near future.

We are thankful for the support of the teams, universities, sponsors, and enthusiasts who have made this such a wonderful event in the past, and who are presently working with us to make it even better this year.  We recognize the challenges this change may present teams and sponsors and we appreciate their understanding as we select a new location. We are confident the site chosen will support a very successful Solar Decathlon and we look forward to seeing each team’s entry come to life this fall.

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