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Race to Outfit White House With Solar Begins

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After some intense lobbying by solar energy advocates, White House is making room for solar. In a blog post, Energy Secretary Steve Chu said solar panels and a solar water heater system will rise from the White House roof by the end of the Spring.

The installations will be part of a demonstration project by the U.S Department of Energy to showcase American technology, Chu said. “The project will show that American solar technology is available, reliable, and ready to install in home throughout the country. Around the world, the White House is a symbol of freedom and democracy. It should also be a symbol of America’s commitment to a clean energy future,” he wrote.

The DOE will pick the systems through a competitive process, said spokeswoman Jen Stutsman. The size of the solar panel systems could run between 5-kilowatt to 15-kilowatt, she said. The solar water heater system will likely occupy 150 square feet of the roof.

The last time solar panels lined the White House roof was when Jimmy Carter was president in the 1970s. Carter’s solar panels sat on the roof of the Oval Office and heated water for use in the White House kitchen, said the Smithsonian, which has one of the solar panels.  President Ronald Reagan removed the panels during his administration.

President George W. Bush also embrace solar, but apparently didn’t publicize it. Bush installed three solar electric and heating systems for, among other things, warming the White House pool. It was the National Park Service that decided to add solar, and the installations included crystalline silicon solar panels from Evergreen Solar in Massachusetts. The solar panels went up on the roof of a maintenance building, however, not the White House itself.

President Obama won’t be breaking new ground by going solar, and until the announcement today, he’d faced growing pressure from solar industry advocates to install solar energy systems on the roof of the White House to show a personal commitment to clean energy. Lobbying efforts have sprouted up from several groups, including the Solar Energy Industries Association and, which focuses on global warming issues. SEIA’s CEO Rhone Resch said he asked Obama to install solar at the White House when he met the president at an Earth Day ceremony earlier this year. Sungevity, an installer in Oakland, Calif., created an online petition and offered a free solar electric system.

Chu didn’t provide details about what types of solar panels and water heating system will be the showcase technologies at the White House.

The technologies, of course, will come from American companies, which can range from manufacturing giants such as First Solar and SunPower to many startup companies in Silicon Valley. Solyndra, which has gotten a $535 million federal loan to build a factory in California, could also be a contender. Given the project’s location and place in the history of clean energy, you can expect a lot of lobbying efforts from manufacturers and installers to take part.

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4 Responses to “Race to Outfit White House With Solar Begins”

  1. penny_gruber

    Solar PV and thermal modules are real. Mark Goldes’ fantasy generators powered by: magnets and water are not.

    Mark tries to seed alarm that we are all about to die from: global warming, the Deepwater Horizon spill, or now solar flares. Next month it might be giant killer frogs. Whatever the threat to humanity, Mark’s answer for crises real or imagined is the same: Hand him cash to develop his phony energy machines that are perpetually “potential candidates, on the horizon, opening a door to …” status.

  2. Green Elephant

    @Mark Goldes

    “Why would anyone fight it?”

    Because there is a lot of money in the oil business. This money runs parts of the country, such as the political sector. I’m not arguing with the fact that its a great alternative energy source. I just wanted to say it’s not going to be easy to transition to green power.

    My biggest question is… since it is mentioned that the technologies will come from “American companies”, does that mean Sharp Solar is out of the race? Or are Sharp’s solar panels “American” since they own a manufacturing plant in the US? Basically, if you have American workers making products for Americans in America, is it “Un-American” because the company originated in Japan? Or is it the opposite? Is this not the best example of American culture, with foreigners coming together in a melting pot of internationalism? Just a thought.

    • No problem with the melting pot. See New Paths to Liberty at

      And you are right. It won’t be easy. However, every firm that faces a long-term power shortage has a vested interest in grid free power. The same is true for the homes of the wealthy as well as those who are not.

      Massive power shutdowns are catastrophes for everyone.

  3. The symbolism is all to the good.

    Now note the potential impact of solar flare activity. A new eleven year sunspot cycle has begun.

    Two solar threat events missed earth so far this year. According to NASA, if either had hit the geomagnetic field, 130 million Americans could lose power for protracted periods of time – perhaps several weeks – at a cost the first year of between $1 trillion and $2 trillion.

    Similar to the combined cost to date of both wars!


    The steps necessary to rapidly reduce dependence on the power grid can accelerate development of inexpensive, decentralized, green systems.

    This opens a politically workable way to accelerate the development of cheap green power.

    We need to focus on that objective. Why would anyone fight it? There is likely to be widespread support for what needs to be done.

    Cheap green power can supersede the fruitless debate over climate change.

    And effectively fight Global Warming, goose the economy, generate lots of jobs and reduce dependency on oil and unstable areas of the globe.

    See Moving Beyond Oil, and Running on Water, on the same Aesop Institute website.

    Both outline low cost alternatives that can power automobiles and trucks. Even better, future versions can become power plants when suitably parked. No wires needed.

    Such vehicles may pay for themselves as investments!

    Imagine what could be accomplished by calling attention to the little recognized threat of massive power failures due to solar flares!

    Rise to the challenge!