A History of Solar on the White House

south lawn c2006 n A History of Solar on the White House

Over the years the White House has endorsed many different energypolicies. And, interestingly enough, even had its own solar array on the roof!

In the wake of the 1970’s energy crisis, President Jimmy Carterembraced renewable energy. In a 1979 speech he said, “Beginning thismoment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 – never… I will soon submit legislation to Congress for the creation ofthis nation’s first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucialgoal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year2000.” That same year, Carter walked the talk and installed a 32-panelsystem on the White House.

The system that adorned the White House unfortunately did not survive the Reagan years. Months after Reagan allowed Carter’s solar financialincentives to expire, the panels were removed during routine roofrepairs and never replaced. Dr. Szego, the man responsible for gettingCarter to install solar on the roof, remembered that the Reaganofficials thought the system was a joke. Reagan’s Attorney General andconfidant Edwin Meese is said to have been behind the removal of thepanels because he believed they weren’t befitting a superpower.Interestingly enough, as late as 2008 Meese was still issuing memos from his think tank urging President Bush to stall on climate changeregulation. The system that had once rested on top of the White Houselater ended up on top of a cafeteria at Unity College in Maine.

Reagan’s end to the White House solar system wasn’t the last timesolar made an appearance at the White House. In 2003, at the request ofthe National Park Service, President Bush had a system installed on oneof the grounds maintenance buildings as well as a solar thermal systemto service the White House spa and hot tub. While it’s great that solaronce again is present at the White House, it has taken a definite backseat.

-Nat Smith