Solar Decathlon Students Want Back On Mall

Since 2002, the U.S. Solar Decathlon has brought together teams from 20 institutions of higher learning each year to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses in a competition that seeks to balance affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency–and since 2002, that competition has been held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Now, 1,000 university student leaders worldwide–led by a team of Southern California Institute of Architecture/California Tech students–are appealing the U.S. Department of Interior’s decision to move the 2011 Solar Decathlon off the mall and onto an alternate site.

Solar Decathlon National Mall

image via U.S. Department of Energy

The Department of Interior cites concerns over damage to the Mall’s turf–a reason the student groups appear to find specious, as the space traditionally allocated for the Decathlon represents less than 1/8 of the Mall’s total lawn area and all 20 teams are contractually bound to assume the costs of re-sodding the Mall’s lawn and repairing any damage to the grounds.

“This decision is particularly unfortunate and surprising in light of the recent State of the Union address, in which President Obama stressed the critical importance of clean energy technologies, including solar-generated power, to America’s future and next generation of innovators.” said Elisabeth Neigert, Masters of Architecture degree candidate at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, in a statement.

She goes on to note that this year’s Solar Decathlon homes were designed and engineered specifically to reside on the Mall, and that redesigning them for a new location would invalidate two years of planning, at great cost to the teams involved.

[Editor’s Note: And now, to add insult to injury, even if the Decathlon is restored to the Mall, it will reportedly have to compete for space with the now expanded National Book Fair. The National Park Service looks to have conveniently approved a permit to go from one day to two on what was supposed to be the Decathlon’s opening weekend. Is the Park Service choosing book worms over solar lovers? We aren’t saying they are, but given that the Book Fair will bring significant foot traffic to the area – which was a concern around the solar event’s footprint impact on the Mall – perhaps the Decathlon decision should be reconsidered.]

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.


  • We should at least get to know where they are planning to have it. SURE the mall would be the ideal place but maybe the new location isn’t as bad and shunned into a corner as we all think…

  • Reply February 21, 2011

    Fred Smoller

    The solar decathlon should be held at the Orange County Great Park, in Irvine, California, where there is plenty of room and plenty of sunshine.

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