Obama to unveil new commitments to solar and energy efficiency

Austin's 's Pecan Street Project. Photo courtesy of Pecan Street Inc.

On Friday,¬†President Obama plans to announce a sweeping package of commitments — over 300 in total — from companies and government agencies to increase the deployment of solar panels, and make buildings more energy efficient. The announcements will take place at a Walmart in Mountain View, California. While the commitments are a far cry from the kind of financing that the green stimulus provided, the announcements are the latest way for Obama to highlight his attention to environmentalism, clean energy and climate change. Earlier this week, he released the massive climate change report.

One of the more symbolic announcements will be that the White House has finally managed to install solar panels on the first family’s residence, according to reports. To note, this was a discussion started four years ago. The White House had solar panels back in the 1970’s, installed by Jimmy Carter’s administration, but President Ronald Reagan removed them during his administration.

SolarCity_Copper_Ridge_School

More substantial commitments in the package include large pledges by companies like Walmart, which says it will make 850 million square feet of its buildings more energy efficient and will double the number of solar projects at its U.S. stores. Health giant Kaiser says it will look into adding as much as 40 megawatts of solar projects at dozens of its hospitals in California.

Google — which has spent a massive amount on clean power projects over the years — is launching a contest with a $1 million prize for developing the next generation of smaller, better power inverters. Power inverters are big, clunky boxes that convert the¬†direct current created by the solar panel into alternating current that can be used in the home. The contest is called the Little Box Challenge, and more details will be announced soon about how to enter.

Little Box Challenge

Obama will announce a series of commitments from the federal government, including things like new conservation standards and more funds for energy efficiency upgrades. On the list:

  • Development of job training at community colleges for another 50,000 solar workers to enter the workforce by 2020
  • A pledge for more federal agencies to buy solar panel projects
  • Another $2 billion in energy efficiency upgrades for federal buildings (added to another $2 billion back in 2011)
  • A new program to replace more than 500,000 inefficient outdoor lights on poles across the U.S.
  • Two new energy efficiency conservation standards from the DOE, one for electric motors and one for walk-in coolers and freezers
  • New financing options for energy-efficiency and water-saving upgrades for affordable housing units

In addition to the new commitments, the Obama administration also released a report detailing the progress that’s been made so far around solar panels in the U.S. There were a record number of solar panels installed on rooftops in the U.S. in 2013.

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