Assembly Begins at Solar Decathlon EuropeMonday, June 7, 2010
About 200 decathletes and organizers gathered in Madrid today to kick off Solar Decathlon Europe 2010. Unfortunately, the international economic crisis has hit Solar Decathlon Europe hard, and three of the original 20 teams (Valencia, Mexico, and Brazil) had to drop out of the competition. Following team registration and a welcome meeting, the 17 remaining teams rushed off to begin construction.
A few small trucks started driving onto the Villa Solar under the bright blue, sunny sky at noon. The big, heavy trucks that carry the team houses—which are not allowed to drive through the city during the day and require police escort—will begin to roll in at 11 p.m. Assembly will continue 24 hours a day until the inaugural ceremony on June 17.
The landscape of the Villa Solar is different from the shady, grassy National Mall in Washington, D.C. In Madrid, the competition site flanks two sides of the Manzanares River and is within sight of the Almudena Cathedral (Santa María la Real de La Almudena) and the Royal Palace (Palacia Real). Here, the ground is a pale dust, and the heat is intense. The area is newly constructed, so no trees provide shade. The houses, organizer tents, and visitor activities will line both sides of the river.
Two U.S. teams, The University of Florida and Virginia Tech, are competing in Solar Decathlon Europe. The University of Florida team arrived two weeks ago to begin building its house at a nearby site. It is now anticipating its truck’s arrival. Virginia Tech is competing again with Lumenhaus, which captivated visitors to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2009. Lumenhaus has been traveling to various locations (including New York City) since the 2009 competition ended last October, so the team is fairly relaxed about its assembly here in Madrid. But both teams are eager and excited to get the 2010 competition under way.
Carol Anna is the communications manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. Throughout the Solar Decathlon Europe competition, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon organizers are reporting from Madrid.