Washington, DC - Today, Acting Assistant Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman officially kicked off the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon® Competition Event during the Solar Decathlon Opening Celebration.

Students from 72 teams, representing 66 collegiate institutions and 12 countries, are competing for top prizes in the 2020 Build Challenge and 2021 Design Challenge during the Competition Event.

“I was deeply inspired by the ingenuity and perseverance of our Solar Decathlon teams, who have designed and constructed buildings that embody the spirit of innovation we need for a clean energy future,” said Acting Assistant Secretary Speakes-Backman. “These homes are a testament to the incredible skill and resolve of the next generation of building professionals, who share a sense of urgency in tackling the climate crisis and building more sustainable communities.”

During the Opening Celebration, the Richard King Award was presented to two deserving recipients.

Outstanding Faculty Advisor, Prasad Vaidya

Prasad Vaidya is a senior advisor at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) in Bengaluru, India, where he has been the driving force behind the establishment of Solar Decathlon India, which will hold its first competition later this month. Vaidya has worked in environmental sustainability as a practitioner, researcher, and educator for more than 25 years. He also served as the faculty advisor for the team that placed first in the Urban Single-Family Housing Contest from CEPT University in Ahmedabad, India during the 2017 DOE Race to Zero competition, now known as the Solar Decathlon Design Challenge.

Outstanding Student Alumnus, Scott Tjaden

Scott Tjaden is a principal product manager at Constellation, where he works to bring innovative, energy-saving technologies to the utility’s customers. In 2011, he was a member of the first-place Solar Decathlon team from the University of Maryland. The team’s winning project, WaterShed, was purchased by Pepco, the electric service provider to Maryland and Washington, D.C. After the competition, the home was moved to Rockville, Maryland, to be Pepco’s Watershed Sustainability Center. Since his participation as a student, Tjaden has supported Solar Decathlon in various capacities. In 2015, he served as a competition judge, representing event sponsor Pepco. In 2017, he served on the organizer’s staff for the event in Denver, Colorado; and in 2019, he served as a Solar Decathlon Build Challenge Reviewer, providing feedback to the 2020 Build Challenge teams on their early designs.

The Richard King Award was created in honor of the founder of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon®.  Establishing the first Solar Decathlon in 2002, King directed Solar Decathlon until his retirement from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2015. He continues to support Solar Decathlon events globally.

About the Solar Decathlon

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is a collegiate competition that prepares the next generation of building professionals to design and build high-performance, low-carbon buildings powered by renewables. The Design Challenge is a one- to two-semester, design-only competition, while the Build Challenge is a two-year design-build competition.

Since 2002, the Solar Decathlon has challenged more than 20,000 students to create efficient, affordable buildings powered by renewables, while promoting student innovation, STEM education, and workforce development opportunities in the buildings industry.

Today, buildings account for 74% of electricity use, 39% of total energy use, and 35% of carbon emissions in the United States. The Solar Decathlon supports a key strategy for addressing the Biden Administration’s climate priorities—developing a workforce well equipped to design and construct low-carbon buildings, improving quality of life, and ultimately helping to deliver an equitable clean energy future.

Applications for the 2022 Solar Decathlon Design Challenge and 2023 Solar Decathlon Build Challenge will open this summer. Additional details are available on the Solar Decathlon website.