Proponents of a new sustainable Decathlon see OC fairs as an epicenter of innovation

A recent effort to make Orange County a sort of green Silicon Valley — where students, businesses and innovators collaborate on sustainability projects that could reverse the effects of climate change — has found an epicenter in Costa Mesa .

State Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine) and two Chapman University professors who oversee an annual survey of county residents’ opinions on public policy, joined officials at the Orange County Fair & Event Center at a press conference Friday to announce an all-new Decathlon will land at the OC Fairgrounds in 2023.

Modeled after the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, the biennial event will feature 18 teams of college and post-secondary researchers, architects, builders, and innovators from around the world who design and build sustainable housing models that can be easily reproduced and replicated.

Chapman University professor Michael Moodian speaks during a press conference Friday at the OC Fair & Event Center, which will host a global sustainability event in 2023.

(Kevin Chang / personal photographer)

“We’ve set ambitious zero-emissions housing mandates, but we’re not going to achieve them without some significant innovation,” said Min, who secured $5 million in 2021-22 budget allocations for the decathlon. “We hope this will help reverse the effects of climate change and provide affordable, green housing here in California.”

Organizers said the OC Exhibition Center presented an ideal venue for the event, which is expected to attract up to 150,000 people over its 11 days, October 5-15.

Fred Smoller, an associate professor of political science at Chapman University, described testing the latest zero-emission vehicles, racing electric motorcycles in the Action Sports Arena at the fairgrounds and a drone show, among other attractions that will be offered at the event.

The idea, he said, is to educate and engage the public in sustainable practices and advancements, so they can see what is possible.

    Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine), center, presents a check for $5 million to officials at the OC Fair & Event Center on Friday.

State Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine), center, presents a check for $5 million to officials at the OC Fair & Event Center on Friday.

(Kevin Chang / personal photographer)

“A [objective] is to help California achieve its goal of a 100% clean energy future,” Smoller said. “A second goal…is to make Orange County the sustainability capital of the world. It’s a big job, and we’re going to need everyone’s help to do it.

While it’s still unclear how much revenue the decathlon could generate, Min said he’s sure to make up for any lost revenue the OC Fair & Event Center suffered from the recent ban on exhibitions. firearms on state property, due to the passage of a bill authored by the Irvine senator last year.

SB 264 was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom last year and went into effect Jan. 1. Mesa Fairgrounds.

“One of the complaints that came up when we ended the gun shows at OC’s fairgrounds was that they would lose revenue,” he said, citing an estimated annual average at $800,000. “That will be a lot more than five to ten years of gun show revenue.”

Min has since drafted another bill, SB 915, which once again seeks a statewide ban. It was recently adopted by the Assembly Appropriations Committee and will be put to the vote of the Plenary Assembly.

OCFEC chief executive Michele Richards agreed that the Decathlon aligns with the center’s mission to provide access to unique educational and entertaining experiences.

“All eyes will be on Costa Mesa, right here at the OC Fair & Event Center, as we stage an event that will draw widespread attention to the importance of sustainability,” she said. “We are excited to move forward with this new business partnership.”

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