By Richard King
I just arrived at the first Solar Decathlon China in Datong, and it is beyond awesome. Solar Decathlon started in the United States, spread to Europe, and is now in Asia. Each time it moved, our international friends and colleagues took a good idea and made it better.
Solar Decathlon China has taken on the flavor of the Olympics in both size and complexion. The City of Datong has built an impressive site for the competition—complete with a hotel called the Sun Palace for the hundreds of decathletes, a beautifully designed village for the competition houses, and facilities to accommodate thousands of visitors. To top that, the site is located in the middle of a new cultural center where a museum, theater, library, and stadium are being built for the city’s residents.
International flags can be seen everywhere. The competition and exhibit team participants include 20 teams from 33 universities and student decathletes from more than 11 nationalities and four continents. Datong has a long history, and Solar Decathlon China is the largest, most international event ever held here.
I really like the way the teams are working together in true harmony. Today, I watched Team Israel help the team from London Metropolitan University and Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (England-China). Team Israel had finished early, so when they heard their neighbors were having trouble, instead of resting, they walked over and started helping their neighbors.
It was a wonderful example of generosity and sportsmanship—especially at this critical juncture. Teams have 14 days to build their houses, which is a very short period of time and the biggest challenge of the competition. All houses must be completed by noon tomorrow (Thursday), or they will lose points when the competition begins Friday morning. When I walked around Wednesday afternoon, only the teams from Sweden, Australia, and Israel were finished. That means many teams will be working fast and furious throughout the night.
I can’t wait to see the progress in the morning!
Richard King is the director of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.