Calling All Solar Decathletes The Solar Decathlon Alumni Association (SDAA) congratulates all 2011 Solar Decathlon competitors for an impressive performance, upholding the competition’s high standard of excellence.

By, David G. Schieren

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, left, speaks with members of the SCI-Arc/Caltech team, Andrew Gong, second from left, and Elisabeth Neigert, right, as he tours their entry in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011. Stefano Paltera/U.S. Dept. of Energy Solar Decathlon

Established in 2007, the SDAA recently launched a new website with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). We invite all students and faculty from past competitions to sign up. Industry partners and sponsors are welcome to join under a special membership class. Soon we will reach out to Solar Decathlon Europe and Solar Decathlon China as well.

The mission of the SDAA is to provide a forum for Decathlon alumni to build relationships, expand our knowledge base, support the Solar Decathlon and advocate for renewable energy.

Emile Chin-Dickey (Cornell−2005), Cristina Zancani-Schieren (Rhode Island School of Design−2005), James Bickford (Santa Clara−2007), Matt Beck (Team Alberta−2009) and I, with others, have been working to build the association since the 2007 competition.

Visitors tour the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 in Washington, D.C., with Arlington, Va., left, and the Lincoln Memorial, right, in the background. Photo: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Dept. of Energy Solar Decathlon

American Solar Energy Society board member Jeff Lyng (University of Colorado−2005) and others from ASES have also been vital to our growth, amongst other things hosting meetings at the ASES National Solar Conference. In addition to becoming friends (and, yes, Cristina is my wife), we’ve benefited professionally from working together. We have already had an impact on the competition, as well. For example, Cristina helped influence her architecture firm, Perkins + Will, to sponsor the past two competitions.

For all Decathletes, solar, efficiency and sustainability are in our DNA. We share a vision for a healthier, more civil world, and we know that we can help make this a reality. It is our generation that is going to make renewable energy the dominant energy technology. But we believe it is the Decathlon, more than any other experience, that helps develop a skilled, motivated and unstoppable renewable energy workforce positioned to achieve our goal. The SDAA gives us the opportunity to benefit from our shared experience and support future decathletes. Join us at

David G. Schieren ( is chief executive officer at EmPower Solar and an alumnus of the 2005 New York Institute of Technology/U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Solar Decathlon team.

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