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Solar Decathlon Profile: Site Operations Manager Byron Stafford

Saturday, September 17, 2011

By Carol Anna

When it comes to building a solar village, Byron Stafford knows what it takes. Since the first U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in 2002, Byron has served as the competition’s site operations manager.

Byron’s team—which this year includes engineers Mike Coddington and Robert Butt of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory as well as subcontractors—is dedicated to ensuring that the teams have what they need to compete. For example, site operations marks team lots, provides teams with water, sets up light towers for organizer areas, designs and builds roadways to move vehicles on and off the competition site, manages vehicle access to the site, and installs the solar village microgrid that interconnects team houses with the electric power system.

Photo of men in hard hats standing around an organizer utility panel.

Byron Stafford, Solar Decathlon site operations manager (second from left), consults with a team member from the City College of New York (right) about interconnecting the team’s house with the village microgrid. (Credit: Carol Anna/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

During the public event, Byron ensures that the site is clean, safe, and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. During disassembly, his team provides services to enable teams to disassemble and transport their houses off the site. It also takes down the microgrid and roadways to clear the event off the site.

Over the years, the scope of Byron’s job has evolved. In 2009, his team installed the first village microgrid to interconnect the team houses with the electric power system, effectively transitioning the village from battery storage to grid power.

This year, Byron responded to the challenges of working on a new competition site at the National Mall’s West Potomac Park. These meant developing a new site plan to ensure each house receives an equitable amount of sunshine and building the temporary roadway that allows vehicles to drive on and off the site. He and his team began roadway construction on Sept. 6 and experienced more than 10 inches of rain over the next few days, which resulted in soggy and muddy ground conditions.

“Rain is all part of managing an outdoor event,” Byron says with a smile.

Photo of a man wearing a hard hat, safety glasses, and safety vest and talking on a mobile phone.

Byron Stafford, a senior scientist with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, has served as the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon site operations manager since the first competition in 2002. (Credit: Carol Anna/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Easygoing and levelheaded, Byron handles Solar Decathlon site operations with the calm assurance of someone who knows his job well.

“I don’t have to find work during this event,” he says. “It finds me.”

Byron is a senior scientist for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.  He has a master’s degree in physics and has worked for NREL since 1984.

Carol Anna is the communications manager of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

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