‘We are not canceling the Solar Decathlon’

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Department of Energy said yesterday it is not issuing a funding announcement “in the near term” for the Solar Decathlon, raising new questions about the event’s future.

Typically, DOE would have released a funding opportunity and call for teams by now for 2019’s event, which usually is held every other year. The Solar Decathlon, a collegiate competition where teams design and build solar-powered homes, was last held in Denver in 2017.

DOE did not respond to a request for comment about whether the event was no longer planned for 2019 or whether it would move forward in some different format without competing teams. A DOE official said the event is not being terminated permanently.

“We are not canceling the Solar Decathlon. DOE is actively planning for the future, next-generation Solar Decathlons that will be as cutting-edge and exciting as the past ones have been. Stay tuned for more information in the coming months,” the official said.

The agency is weighing changes to the decathlon’s format and structure, including whether it will operate without a traditional funding opportunity announcement, according to sources. Previously, DOE said it intended to hold the event in Denver in 2019.

The announcement said DOE was “reviewing” the event to make the next competition “impactful and relevant to today’s energy needs and education opportunities.”

The Solar Decathlon started in 2002, with winning teams determined by the best blend of “design excellence” with innovation and efficient energy production.

Since 2005, the event has been held every other year. A Swiss team won the 2017 event (Climatewire, Oct. 5, 2017).

For the 2017 decathlon in October, DOE announced competing teams more than a year earlier, in March 2016. Similarly, teams were announced more than a year before the 2015 event. The advanced planning typically gives competitors time to design and construct the model homes.

Reporter Hannah Northey contributed.