For reasons the Obama Administration is not disclosing, the organizers of the very popular and competitive U.S. Solar Decathlon have decided to locate the sustainable home model projects event in late September 2011 away from the National Mall — the “nation’s front yard” — where it’s been held since its inception in 2002.
All the U.S. Department of Energy is saying about the decision is that it’s “presently researching alternative venues to hold the event this fall, and will announce the selected location in the near future.”
This despite the Mall provides uniquely free and easy access via the Washington, DC subway system with walking distance from downtown and members of Congress making decisions about solar and other forms of clean energy.
During each Decathlon, student teams from around the world design and build highly efficient, solar-powered homes to be thoroughly tested, expertly judged, and publicly 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 the country the world to be inspired by the students’ creativity and to learn about clean energy solutions for their own homes.
The Decathlon challenges 20 collegiate teams from around the world 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.
Many student teams learned of the change in venue while at the International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Florida, where they are displaying their scale models of their team’s entry. According to Chelsea Kelley of Team Mass, “The teams are pretty upset.”
As reported at SolarNovus.com, the students are reportedly discussing the best way to keep the competition on the National Mall. Kelley added that the teams have made a lot of sacrifices to be in this competition. “In this economy, it is already difficult enough to find funding for our project. Now we have yet another hurdle, and this is not a small one,” she said
So, is national security the reason? Cost? A new rule by the host National Park Service? What other location could possibly better serve the public interest than the Mall?
U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu: America and the world await your response.