In October, 2008 Ariel University (located in Samaria) was selected as one of 20 finalists in the 2010 European Solar Decathlon competition. The AUC team was the only team chosen from the Middle East.
The team began building the solar house, met the design deadlines, and met with Spanish event officials in May, 2009, including Beatriz Corredo, Spanish Minister of Housing; Esperanza Aguirre, Madrid Regional President; Sergio Vega Sánchez, Head Project Manager of the European Solar Decathlon; and Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, Mayor of Madrid.”
In September, 2009, the AUC team was expelled from the competition. Stand With Us provides this info:
- The letter from Spanish Minister of Housing, Javier Ramos Guallart, informed AUC that because it is located in the “occupied territories,” its inclusion violated EU positions.
- Sergio Vega, project manager of the Solar Decathlon, wrote in a communiqué to the college, “The decision was made by the Spanish government based on the fact that the university is located in occupied territory in the West Bank.”
- Ariel’s location in the West Bank does not violate any EU policy on cooperative projects.
- Israel has extensive economic, cultural and scientific programs with the EU.
Stand With Us is “an international education organization dedicated to getting Israel’s side of the story told.” The group has organized a petition and letter-writing drive and has released a video protesting the expulsion of the AUC team “for political reasons” from the 2010 European Solar Decathlon competition. The video was made with students from the project, speaking in English, Spanish, and Arabic:
Boulder Decathlon Connection
The European Solar Decathlon was established in 2007 under a “Memorandum of Understanding” with the US Department of Energy, wherein Spain received the right to hold a solar-powered housing competition in years when the biennial US competition is not held. The original US competition, sponsored by the DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, was first held in 2002, and continued in 2005, 2007 and 2009.
Locals will recall that teams from CU-Boulder won the first two US Solar Decathlons (2002 and 2005). An engineering professor involved with the CU-Boulder team was Hy Brown, who has since moved to Israel to develop affordable solar housing. He teaches at Ariel, and has been working with the AUC team. Here is an excerpt of the team’s statement:
We were shocked to hear that political considerations and issues became a part of this competition. This event, that is intended to showcase ideas and technologies that will help us create a better world, became, in an instant, the grounds for political debate. In our eyes, it is not only wrong, but completely contradictory to the ideas of the competition.
We believe that academic freedom should be maintained at any cost and that students should not be affected by these issues. We feel that our project, which could have benefited not only us, but the international community, is now lost because of political decisions that have no place in academic competitions. We know that we have the support of the other universities and students participating in the SDE and we know that they were as shocked by this decision as we were.
For more information and to sign the petition, visit the Stand With Us site.