After a three-year delay, an Obama administration official recently confirmed that a solar PV system with American-made solar panels are being installed on the White House. But did you know that this isn’t the first time that the White House has used some type of solar power? In fact, President Obama will be the third president to utilize solar energy.
Like consumers today, past presidents chose to install solar for economic reasons. For Jimmy Carter in the 1970’s, a solar hot water system was installed as an answer to the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, which gave the United States its first energy independence wake-up call. To make home heating oil less dependent on foreign oil imports, President Jimmy Carter led by example and installed the first solar hot water system on the White House.
At the ribbon cutting, Carter said, “There is no longer any question that solar energy is both feasible and also cost-effective… As energy costs increase, which is an almost inevitable prospect, that period for paying for this investment will be substantially reduced. Solar energy will not pollute our air or water. We will not run short of it. No one can ever embargo the Sun or interrupt its delivery to us. But we must work together to turn our vision and our dream into a solar reality.” Soon after, Congress passed solar incentives and many homeowners took advantage of the subsidies.
But when oil prices declined in the early 1980’s, President Reagan didn’t see the need to promote solar energy anymore, and he quietly took the panels down in 1986. They were later given to Unity College in Maine, where they heated water for the college’s cafeteria for 30 years.
Energy cost savings was once again the reason for solar being installed in 2003 during President George W. Bush’s first term. The National Parks Service, which is responsible for the White House grounds, wanted to save money on the cost of lighting the White House gardens and heating the White House swimming pool. While President Bush didn’t publicize the installation, the new set of solar hot water panels and a solar photovoltaic system are still on the grounds today.
Finally, after candidate Obama campaigned for solar and clean energy jobs, solar energy advocates called for President Obama to put solar back on top of the nation’s most famous residence in 2010.
At first, the administration seemed to be resistant to the idea, but when climate change advocate Bill McKibben brought one of Jimmy Carter’s retired solar hot water panels to the White House gates and asked that it be reinstalled, the Obama administration finally responded. About a week later, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that Yes, the President can…put solar back on the White House.
It took three years to start the installation, but finally the White House installation is happening.
Putting solar on the White House again is an important symbol. It shows the world that the leader of America is serious about clean energy and decreasing its use of polluting fossil fuels. Over time, it will also save taxpayers money on the mansion/office building’s electricity costs and serve to educate Americans about solar technology and solar affordability.
Of course, the only way to find out if solar is affordable for your commercial office building is to get a free, no-obligation solar quote. (And by the way, once you sign up with REC Solar, you can be sure it won’t take three years to install.) So, get started here.