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Solar Decathlon Europe 2010 Opens With Ceremony and Celebration

Thursday, June 17, 2010

As the sun rose brightly over the Villa Solar, I could feel the excitement building among the decathletes—for in just a few hours, the first Solar Decathlon Europe would have its historic opening. After last-minute cleaning up, decathletes emerged from their houses dressed in team uniforms and lined up in front of the stage.

The opening ceremony started at 11 a.m. with the film “From Washington to Madrid.” It began with highlights from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2009 and then crossed the ocean to feature Solar Decathlon Europe teams arriving at the airport a few weeks ago and building their houses over the past 10 days. It was a moving way to open the ceremony.

Next, there were speeches by the minister of housing, the mayor of Madrid, the president of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, and a representative from major sponsor Saint-Gobain. But the three student decathletes who spoke stole the show. All had compelling accounts of the life-changing experiences they have had over the past two years. Kathryn Watson from the University of Florida spoke about the rewarding experience she has had working with so many students in a collaborative spirit. You could feel how strongly Kathryn believed in her generation’s commitment to build a better world. Javier Hernandez—born in Mexico, raised in California, and now a student at the Universidad de Valladolid in Spain—spoke about his educational benefits. The third student was from one of the Chinese universities and had memorized his entire speech!

All the teams were then introduced and paraded up onto the stage for a large group photo. It was a fitting way to end the ceremony, with all the decathletes on stage together—hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder.

Now the moment everyone has been working for for the past two years: A stunning solar village on the banks of the Manzanares River is officially open!

The rest of the afternoon, the village will be open to guests and VIPs. Later this evening, the decathletes will be treated to a very special guest. Stay tuned to find out who it is.

Scoring begins tomorrow. Visit for up-to-the-minute scoring for all teams.

Until later, adiós, and let the games begin!

Richard King is the director 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.

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