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Solar Decathlon Goes International

Saturday, October 1, 2011

By Richard King

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon’s influence is expanding around the world. This competition, we have international teams from Belgium, Canada, China, and New Zealand that bring different perspectives and add to the debate about how to design sustainable homes. We love their fresh approaches and cultural influences. Even the cricket games in New Zealand’s side yard, which just happens to be a softball diamond, adds a twist to the neighborhood.

Photo of a group of people from around the world.

Representatives of several countries met to discuss international Solar Decathlon competitions. (Credit: Richard King/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon)

Solar Decathlon competitions are also expanding internationally. The first Solar Decathlon Europe took place in Madrid, Spain, last year, and its organizers are planning to hold the second one next year. Solar Decathlon Europe was very successful, with 190,000 visitors and 17 houses that were innovative and stunningly beautiful. The competition captured the hearts and minds of Europe, and now other countries are interested in hosting Solar Decathlon Europe 2014. For example, we have received a wonderful offer from France to host the next Solar Decathlon Europe in Versailles.

This January, the Department of Energy and the National Energy Administration in China signed a memorandum of understanding to hold the first Solar Decathlon China. The competition will be organized in part by Peking University. Ten cities submitted bids to hold the event, and the city of Datong was selected. Its proposal stated that the city would build a renewable energy theme park around the Solar Decathlon village with hotel space and transportation for the students and the general public.  It also is offering to purchase some of the houses so they can be on permanent display in the renewable theme park.

Other countries are also interested in holding their own Solar Decathlons. Representatives from Australia and South Africa visited us this week to learn about this year’s Solar Decathlon. They gathered information to take back to their governments to try to develop competitions on their continents.

It is gratifying to know that the event is growing worldwide and helping educate an ever-increasing number of people. That’s the best way to win in the long run.

Richard King is director of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

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