DOI Moves 2011 Solar Decathlon Off National Mall, Students Protest

Student teams from all over the world are protesting the U.S. Department of Interior’s decision to relocate the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Solar Decathlon 2011 from the National Mall to an alternate site.

The reason given for the venue change by the DOI is to avoid the impact the event will have on the Mall’s turf.  The space allocated for the Decathlon represents less than 1/8 of the Mall’s grass lawn area however, 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.

The Decathlon is an award-winning juried competition that students to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are affordable, energy efficient, and well designed.

“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, a graduate student at the Southern California Institute of Architecture.

Neigert is acting as the spokesperson organizing and leading the protest on behalf of the more than 1,000 university students affected by the DOI’s decision. 

“In addition, our Decathlon homes have been designed and engineered specifically to reside on the Mall,” said Neigert. “Redesigning them for a new location invalidates two years of planning, and will be very costly for the teams. Beyond that, displaying them on this very public and iconic site was an integral part of our goal to educate and inspire the public. That is now in jeopardy.”

While each competing team has been pledged a $100,000 grant from the DOE to be used toward their Decathlon project, each has already spent upwards of $1 million on the project, with much of the additional revenue obtained through fundraising efforts.

Neigert is actively soliciting support from members of both Houses of Congress – the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives (signed letters as of 2/4/11) to assist the student teams in urging DOI Secretary Ken Salazar to reverse his decision to move the 2011 Solar Decathlon.

Neigert and the other students say they are baffled and disappointed by the DOI’s decision:

“At the very least, we would like an open and transparent discussion of the issue, said Neigert. “There is more at stake than the costs that will be incurred, by both the teams and the American taxpayers, to move the event.  An important forum for sustainability and renewable energy education will be diminished, and the good will of participating universities, sponsors, and team supporters will be challenged.

All previous DOE Solar Decathlons have taken place on the National Mall and have attracted more than 300,000 people to view the homes and learn more about solar power, sustainability, and green construction.

Related Reading:
Solar Power Without The Panels?
Solar Lighting Could Revolutionize Africa In 10 Years
Obama Agrees To Put Solar Panels Back On The White House

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu poses for a photo with Team California in front of its solar-powered house during the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2009 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, Oct. 07, 2009.
(Credit: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

36 comments

jane richmond
jane richmond4 years ago

If it ain't broke don't fix it!!!!

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle5 years ago

Innovation and renewable energy have been issues stressed by Pres. Obama. The excuse for moving it, smells suspiciously like an effort, not to rile Big Oil.

Ed G.
Edward G.5 years ago

I am sure the republicans managed to fit terrorism as a possibility.
I am specifically blaming anyone elected officials that voted for the renewal of the so called patriot act. Make it part of your research to see who voted for the renewal and vote them OUT!

Ardis M.
Ardis Mcpherson5 years ago

If it works! Don't fix it!

Lynn C.
Lynn C.5 years ago

The "police" state is becoming more and more evident in this country and is really in need of policing itself.

Penelope P.
Penelope P.5 years ago

This sort of thing is so important for our survival- Is it possible to change it into a travelling exhibition on the basis of this-Hosts pay for costs of rebuilds where necessary

Kathy Cormack
Mary K Cormack5 years ago

I am one of the two percent that voted NO! The reason is that I believe it should come to Las Vegas! I am GreenLasVegasNow.org. This is absurd. Really. It takes a whole lot of time and energy and months of planning. Years have been put into this wonderful event. They will probably lose it now. Come to Vegas and make it happen.

Robert K.
Robert K.5 years ago

Putting Salazar in charge of the Department of the Interior is like putting Heinrich Himmler in charge of all the Bar Mitzvahs in Germany.

Past Member
Hiedi T.5 years ago

Can someone please remind me what Salazar's job description is?

JW H.
JW H.5 years ago

To quote a famous American "How is that hope and change thing working for you?"