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Solar Decathlon Here, There, and Beyond

Monday, October 30, 2017

By Megan Close and Daniel Rubin
Video by Garrett Bourcier and Cody Williams

While the U.S. Department of Energy closes the chapter on Solar Decathlon 2017, our fellow global competition organizers are gearing up for multiple international events. Next year, Solar Decathlon China and the first Solar Decathlon Middle East will take place. In 2019, Solar Decathlon Europe, Solar Decathlon Latin American and the Caribbean, and the first Solar Decathlon Africa will host solar villages inspired by the U.S. competition.

We were honored to have members from our international family visit the village in Denver. Not only did they bring new ideas to evolve the competition, they also reaffirmed our shared mission of enabling a brighter future for the next generation.

Noura Alhammadi and Hind Al Ali, two Solar Decathlon Middle East organizers, visited the Denver village to observe and learn from current teams and organizers going through the process. The upcoming Middle East competition will include an impressive 21 teams participating from 15 different countries. The event, which is organized by the Dubai Water and Electricity Authority, will take place at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.

Hind and Noura described the move toward renewable and sustainable energy as aligned with Dubai’s vision of the future. They hope that the Solar Decathlon Middle East not only raises awareness about the benefits of solar energy, but also boosts confidence in alternative energy technologies overall. Most aspects of their competition will be similar to the U.S.-based event, but all teams must adapt their designs to the heat, dust, and high humidity typical of the Middle Eastern climate.

Plans for the second Solar Decathlon China are similarly exciting. The National Energy Administration of the People’s Republic of China and the China Overseas Development Association are hosting the event in the city of Dezhou in China’s Northwestern Shandong province. A large contingent from China arrived in Denver to experience the American event.

Hongxi Yin, the director of the steering committee for Solar Decathlon China 2018, hopes that the impact of the Solar Decathlon is heard worldwide. His goals are to educate the public about the potential that solar energy offers, make a positive impact on the global community, and empower the next generation to act.

Given that the majority of teams competing in Solar Decathlon China 2018 are from other countries, Hongxi believes that global involvement is crucial in planning and completing a successful event. Hongxi depicts Solar Decathlon as a dynamic competition that thrives off diversity and collaboration between team members, faculty, and school administrations. By bringing together different disciplines and roles, this event prepares students for the work force.

Solar Decathlon Europe 2019 will be held in Hungary, the first time a Solar Decathlon has been hosted in central and eastern Europe. This represents an exciting milestone for three of the organizers, Istvan Nagy, Karoly Matolcsy, and Adrienn Buday-Malik, who visited the Solar Decathlon 2017 village on behalf of ÉMI Nonprofit LLC. Although the U.S. and European events will be very similar, Solar Decathlon Europe competition emphasizes the renovation of existing buildings using modern technologies and a mix of modern and reclaimed materials.

For these organizers, being able to witness the U.S. event allows them to have a well-rounded and realistic view on how to make their version successful. Ultimately, the European organizers want to highlight the importance of renewable energy and sustainability in the communities around them. They believe society can move toward a brighter future by inspiring increased awareness of sustainable living solutions and reduced environmental footprints.

Hosting an event of this magnitude comes with many challenges in any language. However, we’re not alone in our love for Solar Decathlon. As Edwin Rodriguez Ubiñas, lead organizer of Solar Decathlon Middle East and a multinational Solar Decathlon expert, said, “The issue of sustainability does not affect just one nation or another. It is important for our global community.” And together, we will build that brighter future.

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