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Report: Solar Decathlon Skips the District, Moves to National Harbor [UPDATE]

UPDATE, 11:00 a.m. - Decathlete spokeswoman Elisabeth Neigert called to clarify: Contra the E&E article, she hasn't actually heard that National Harbor is more likely than any of the other proposed alternatives (which include RFK stadium). Given that the Department of Energy isn't confirming or denying anything, and that Neigert and E&E seem to have gotten their wires crossed, we're just going to have to wait and see what they say.


Sorry for all the solar news lately, but events are moving fast: Students desperately trying to keep the Decathlon on the National Mall say they've found out that the Department of Energy has chosen National Harbor–in Maryland–as the new site for the competition.

E&E News talked to spokespeople for the Departments of Energy and the Interior, who didn't deny the decision, but said that a final agreement hadn't been signed.

The massive development just south of the District line has already siphoned off quite a bit of D.C.'s convention business, which has been distressing people like Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton. From scanning through National Harbor's venue brochure, it seems likely that the Decathlon would sit on the 64-acre "Plateau" (pictured below) that's a half mile away from the center of "town."

Besides a stick in the District's eye, it's not hard to see why this is a suboptimal solution from a public standpoint: Located just outside the beltway, the only way to get there without a car is via bus from the Branch Avenue metro station. Not impossible, but much more of a schlep, and not something that most of us are just going to swing by during a long lunch.

I'm sure the Departments of Energy and Interior will fully explain the decision when they're good and ready.

  • http://alexblock.net Alex B.

    Wow. What a kick in the pants for the Decathlon.

  • http://leroythorpe.com/lawsuit.html CCCA Prez

    It's not even accessible by Metro rail. To get there you need to use a car. So much for promoting green technology. The Mall and DC's Walter E Washington Convention (with its own Metro stop) are both in Ward 2, is Councilmember Jack Evans distressed by this, is he fighting for keeping this great event in DC?

    What's next the National Book Festival, The Folklife Festival? Why don't we just move all the monuments, the Capitol and White House to National Harbor?

  • Whoa_now

    Is it me or does the Department of Energy just not get it This is a horrible decision...and is almost laughable if it weren't so depressing.

  • Whoa_now

    Who runs the DOE? This is a terrible decision.

  • urban

    this falls perfectly in line with DOE.
    and have any of you been to the solar decathlon? the buildings there simulate the exact opposite of dense urban growth. the designs have all been rural buildings. we need an urban model.

  • Eric

    The DOE messed with success, and the entire solar decathlon will now fail in the coming years. Student groups who received sponsorships from companies who signed agreements of understanding that their names would be proudly splayed across the National Mall will be sued by these same companies, and the universities will sue the DOE. All literally in the name of saving some grass that doesn't have enough support in Congress to be saved anyway.

  • Rick Mangus

    A much better location, so now the bitching can stop!

  • Marie

    A MUCH BETTER LOCATION...agreed! What the hell are all these whiners and moaner bitching about? It's way easier to get to National Harbor...whether by water taxi, Metrobus (from Branch Ave. station) or car. You could even take Metro to the Alexandria King Street Station, and then there's a direct-access shuttle for $5 which takes you directly to National Harbor. All the people who are bitching have no idea that National Harbor already hosts 1+million visitors a year with no problem. You are all just lazy whiners who want to bitch about not being able to hop on your precious Metro. Get over it. Just wait. This event will still be very successful (as have ALL OTHER EVENTS that have also moved from D.C. to National Harbor). Then the success WON'T get reported by City Paper. Go figure!

  • http://offthemall.org/ Bryant Turnage

    Wow, Marie and Rick Mangus are really angry for some reason, but that doesn't make them right.

    I fail to see how a secluded suburban stop with no Metro access is "a better location" than the National Mall. The "nation's front lawn" is certainly a more prominent location, and one which should showcase such initiatives if we are to be serious about pursuing renewable energy and green technologies as Mr. Obama (and every president for forty years) has said. I doubt I would go to all that trouble to go down to National Harbor, since I am a car-free D.C. resident. That's a lot of extra effort for something that used to be easy for me to attend, and would be supporting a decision to punish these hard-working students and their sponsors.

    What many seem to not realize is that the students already planned their designs for the specific orientation of the Mall. Moving to another location could affect their designs. What's more, travel plans for many of the teams, especially international ones, have been arranged well in advance. While National Harbor is arguably better than Baltimore or other far-flung locations, it's certainly an inconvenience at the least for those students.

    Oh, and the fact that the main reason given was to "preserve the Mall" is even more ridiculous given that they turned around and approved an extended time period for the National Book Festival. Will the thousands of exhibitors and attendees to that event do less damage than visitors of the Solar Decathlon?

    This is truly deplorable. I hope that the DOE and National Parks Service reconsider.

  • Eric B

    Just thought that it should be pointed out that there is another way to access the site which has not been mentioned. There is a bike path that ends directly on the plateau. From the national mall, it is a very pleasant 11 mile ride across the memorial bridge, down the Mt. Vernon trail, through old town Alexandria, across the Wilson Bridge on the dedicated bike path, and up to the plateau. All this on paved multi-use trails and the bike friendly streets of Alexandria. From the Braddock Rd. Metro stop is it only a 5 mile ride. This would be a great way to go on a weekend.

  • m

    is national harbor private property?

  • Ward 1 Guy

    omg. the irony. National Horror in PG County is car-centric hell.

  • Will

    If anyone from DOE is reading this, rent out all the parking lots near Fort McNair in SW DC instead. In between T and V and 1st & 2nd there are acres of parking lot just begging for something happening. A much shorter trip than National Harbor.

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