White House Installing Solar Panels

The White House is installing American-made solar panels as part of a program to "demonstrate" that historic buildings can be brought into the green energy age.

In 2010, then-Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced a plan to add solar panels to the White House power system at George Washington University. The solar panels, he said, would be part of a DOE project that would show "American solar technology is available, reliable, and ready to install in homes throughout the country."

Delays to the program kept the project at a standstill for several years, but now the panels are finally going to be put in.

“The retrofit will include the installation of energy-saving equipment, such as updated building controls and variable speed fans, as well as solar generation. The project will help demonstrate that historic buildings can incorporate solar energy and energy efficiency upgrades,” a White House official said.

Two other presidents before Obama have fitted the White House with solar panels.

The first president was Jimmy Carter, who did so with some fanfare in 1979. His panels were dismantled in 1986 during Reagan's term because they weren't cost effective. Some of Carter's panels ended up at Unity College in Maine, which used them to heat water for its cafeteria.

Carter's panels were more about symbolism than utility. They were used only to heat the First Family's water and used to a limited extent in the White House cafeteria and some of its laundry service.

The next time solar panels were installed at the White House was during the Presidency of George W. Bush, who put in two solar systems in 2008—one for landscape maintenance personnel and the other for the presidential pool and spa.


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