Solar Decathlon ’11: Not On The Mall

The first four editions of the Solar Decathlon brought a remarkable temporary green village to the National Mall, as 20 collegiate teams erected and operated the solar-powered homes they had designed. But the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which has organized the competition since its founding in 2002, is seeking a new home for this fall’s event.

Why the move? The DOE said the National Park Service’s “historic effort underway to protect, improve, and restore the National Mall” had led it to seek out a new location, which it would announce soon.

Solar Decathlon, National Mall, Washington, D.C.

image via U.S. Department of Energy

Teams were in Orlando, Fla., for the International Builders’ Show (IBS) to debut new scale models of their Solar Decathlon houses when word of the dislocation got out. And according to Greenwire, they were none too pleased, with several noting that arrangements were well under way to be in Washington nine months down the road.

The National Association of Home Builders, sponsor of IBS, wasn’t happy either. Member Chip Dence, a past Solar Decathlon judge, fired off a letter to President Obama in the hope, he said, of getting the president to “straighten out his boys” at the departments of Energy and Interior, which oversees the Park Service.

New locations under consideration reportedly include other sites in the Washington, D.C., area as well as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.


  • Part of the benefit of this event is the publicity and the image it gives the capital and emphasis on the future as a competitive and sustainable country- moving it sends all of the wrong messages.

  • Reply January 21, 2011

    Gary Wollenhaupt

    Such a shame, the students have come up with some amazing designs. Hope they find suitable venue to build the projects.

  • Reply February 13, 2011

    Cowboy T

    Yep, that’s our “green” Administration for you. I’ve been to a couple of Solar Decathlons, and they are showpieces of energy efficiency and the use of a major alternative energy source. And to do it on such short notice, and it is short notice given the moving requirements for the houses! Mr. Obama definitely needs to straighten out his people on this one.

    How ironic that the Solar Decathlon got started during the anti-environmental Bush Administration (and they were certainly generally anti-environment), yet the Obama Administration officials are allowed to do this to these projects. NOT COOL.

  • Reply February 17, 2011

    Concerned Citizen

    I think you’re missing the point. “Leave No Trace” is the premise for sustainability, before LEED came along. The dollars the students are talking about for repair is a drop in the bucket, plus the time that area is off limits to other groups while the turf is being repaired. How about instead the students challenge themselves to create buildings that allow air and light to penetrate the ground to eliminate the impact? Also, read the Mall Plan and go to public meetings. You’ll find that the long term vision is to accomodate, just on surfaces that can handle the damage.

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