United States Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said solar panels and a solar water heater would be installed on the White House before the start of the summer, at the GreenGov Symposium on October 5, 2010. Despite the assurance “the White House will lead by example,” neither system has made it atop the White House. Director of the SunShot Initiative and Solar Energy Technologies at the Department of Energy, Ramamoorthy Ramesh, responded to the delay. “The Energy Department remains on the path to complete the White House solar demonstration project, in keeping with our commitment, and we look forward to sharing more information—including additional details on the timing of this project — after the competitive procurement process is completed.” As part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative, DOE is investing up to $20.3 million in innovative projects to strengthen the U.S. solar manufacturing industry, improve manufacturing efficiencies, and reduce costs. This includes support for companies across the solar energy supply chain, including U.S. material and tool suppliers and companies that are developing technologies that can be adopted directly into current manufacturing processes.
Private Funding Offers for Solar on the White House
Danny Kennedy, the founder of California-based solar energy provider Sungevity, offered to put solar panels on the White House for free earlier this year as part of a campaign called Solar on The White House. Kennedy estimates solar installation on the White House would cost about $100,000 if paid out of pocket. But the money would be earned back with savings on the electric bill in the first five years, he said in an interview from the Maldives, where he is installing 48 solar panels on President Mohammed Nasheed’s private residence. Still, these generous donations aren’t enough for solar activists like Bill McKibben, who founded the grassroots movement 350.org and has been fighting for solar panels to be placed on the White House roof through his Put Solar On It campaign.
White House Solar History – Where Are the Panels?
Solar panels at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue aren’t an entirely new idea. On June 20, 1979, Jimmy Carter became the first president to install solar panels, stating that he thought the solar devices would remain a useful fixture at the White House well into the 2000s. The Carter administration installed 32 panels to be used to heat water. In 1986 while Ronald Reagan was in office, the panels were dismantled from the White House roof. In 2003, The Bush administration installed a nine kilowatt photovoltaic system, as well as two solar thermal systems that heat water used on the premises. The Carter administration panels that were once on the roof of the White House have been dispersed throughout the world: one resides at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, one at the Carter Library and, as of August 2010, one joined the collection of the Solar Science and Technology Museum in Dezhou, China.
Obama Administration’s Solar Efforts
The Obama Administration has taken solar energy initiatives to a higher regard for our clean energy future. In addition to creating American jobs, President Obama has put words to action through different government departments. The Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it will install solar photovoltaic systems by summer 2012 at five VA medical centers in Oklahoma City; Temple, Texas; Amarillo, Texas; Loma Linda, California and West Los Angeles. The VA has also awarded nearly $78 million in contracts to build solar panels at its facilities with a goal to derive 15 percent of its annual electricity usage from renewable sources by 2013. Additionally, the Department of Energy has issued loan guarantees for solar power projects and manufacturing facilities that will create more than 26,000 jobs. The Department of the Interior has approved permits for solar power projects on public lands that will provide enough power for over 730,000 homes. Further, the Department of Agriculture actively promotes the deployment of solar energy on farms and ranches throughout the country. Finally, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 extended benefits to farmers and ranchers who utilize solar systems.
While the Department of Energy remains on the path to complete the White House solar project, you can go solar by visiting Cooler Planet. Solar isn’t just for the White House, it’s just as important for your house.
(Images Courtesy of: http://roadnottaken.info, http://www.sugarslam.com)