Solar Decathlon India and US celebrate Gen Next of Sustainable Buildings Professionals

Bengaluru: The U.S. Department of Energy, the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology forum (IUSSTF), the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), and the Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE) organized a virtual event ‘Building the Next Generation with Solar Decathlon: Sharing Highlights and Best Practices from 2021 Design Challenges in the U.S. and India’ on August 25, 2021.

Celebrating the inaugural Solar Decathlon India challenge, the event recognized the efforts of students and industry for innovating climate change solutions in the building sector and highlighted Solar Decathlon’s contributions to the India-US Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership. Solar Decathlon India, organized by IIHS and AEEE under the aegis of the IUSSTF, is a competition for undergraduate and postgraduate students to design real net-zero-energy-water-waste buildings.

Speakers in the virtual session included, Abhay Bakre (Director General – Bureau of Energy Efficiency, Ministry of Power), Kelly- Speakes-Backman

(Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and Acting Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy),  Nandini Kannan (Executive Director, Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum), Holly Carr (Director of the U.S. Solar Decathlon), and Prasad Vaidya (founder and Director of Solar Decathlon India).

The Director General of Bureau of Energy Efficiency Bakre acknowledged that India will go beyond the 175 GW of renewable energy commitment and that renewables, including solar, in buildings is the way to make this a reality. He cautioned that the time for conventional approaches is past and that initiatives like Solar Decathlon India can train students to become professionals who can deliver net-zero-energy buildings.

Assistant Secretary Speakes-Backman said that Solar Decathlon India is a concrete example of the collaboration between India and the USA envisioned in the U.S.-India Strategic Clean Energy Partnership that was announced at the Climate Leaders summit as part of the US-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership.

In the first year alone, Solar Decathlon India brought together about 1000 students, who, during the course of the Challenge, demonstrated net-zero designs that are innovative, affordable and climate-resilient. Going beyond a traditional challenge, Solar Decathlon India bridged the gap between what students knew and what they needed to know with knowledge building and skilling platforms built especially for the initiative.

The 2021-22 Challenge is underway with over 90 student teams and more than 1200 students across India.

“The phenomenal response in the first year of Solar Decathlon India has shown that addressing climate change with a focus on buildings is possible when the entire ecosystem comes together; academia, the real estate industry, manufacturers, technology partners and most importantly, students, who are provided with learning and opportunities to create real solutions. This is what we need to meet what are undeniably real challenges.

This year we will provide an opportunity for students in Solar Decathlons in both India and the U.S. to connect, share ideas and technologies, discuss challenges, and to get to know each other. Together they will form an even larger community in our Race to Zero,” said Prasad Vaidya, Director, Solar Decathlon India.

A panel of experts discussed how industry is moving toward high performance, low carbon buildings, one of the goals of the Strategic Energy Partnership and how Solar Decathlon is helping to develop the knowledge and skills that are critical to facilitating the clean energy transition.  Speakers included Rank Ekman, Chief Sustainability Officer and Principal, HKS Architects (Solar Decathlon sponsor and juror), Dhiraj Wadhwa, Director, Commercial & Overseas Business, Carrier Corporation and Manvendra Singh Shekhawat, Managing Director, MRS Group.

The event also included presentations from teams that participated in the earlier U.S. and India Solar Decathlons. Khushi Daxini and Nathulal Suthar from team IDEAS, Nagpur, presented their innovative design of a kinetic facade to achieve thermal comfort by and help reduce energy use by 66%.

Janani Venkatesh,
Communications Associate,
Solar Decathlon India


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