23 Feb 2011

2011 U.S. Solar Decathlon staying on National Mall – sort of

Written by aspowell

The U.S. government is relocating its 2011 Solar Decathlon to the West Potomac Park between the Tidal Basin and the Potomac River in Washington, DC. Technically it will still take place on the National Mall. But now it will be a very long walk from its previous and far more convenient location nestled among the Capitol, several federal agencies, museums and subway stops on the main portion of the Mall.

The long-awaited statement by the Departments of Energy and Interior pinpointed the location as the peninsula just south of the new Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial between the FDR Memorial and the Potomac River.  See map below. It ends weeks’ of speculation about where the Decathlon would be held and whether it would be held in Washington, DC at all.

Curiously, what was omitted from the Departments’ announcement are the specific dates for the Decathlon. For public viewing, it is widely expected to begin September 22 and conclude on October 2.  According to the statement, the public viewing hours are to be published “at a later date.”

The Departments’ statement recited the need “to balance the many uses and demands of the Mall” despite the significant inconvenience Decathlon attendees will endure. The main portion of the National Mall is to undergo renovation starting in 2012.

“We look forward to holding another world-class Solar Decathlon,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “Keeping the competition on the National Mall property allows the students to proceed with their existing home designs, specifically tailored for Washington’s latitude, temperature and humidity conditions.”  While that is true and no doubt a source of relief to competing university teams,  Chu added something that visitors will no doubt disagree with; that it “will provide an ideal stage” for the event.

Elisabeth Neigert, a student at the Southern California Institute of Architecture who serves as spokesperson for the university teams which last month protested the relocation, told TheEnergyFix she was “happy and excited” with the decision. Efforts that she led were likely responsible for the Decathlon not being relocated to a site miles away. She and her colleagues funneled pressure from members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House in a bid to keep it on the main portion of the Mall — where all previous Decathlon’s have been held.

Here’s to hoping rising sea levels and/or heavy rains don’t flood the Decathlon grounds.

This is the site for the 2011 U.S. Solar Decathlon. Image credit: U.S. Department of Energy

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