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Clean Power

Published on September 26th, 2012 | by Jake Richardson


Still No Solar Panels on White House

September 26th, 2012 by  

It has been over twenty years since the White House roof had solar panels. President Carter had them installed in 1979 to heat water. President Obama said in 2010 that new solar panels would be added in 2011. They weren’t.

At the time of the announcement, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said: “This project reflects President Obama’s strong commitment to U.S. leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home. Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come.”

President Carter didn’t seem to have too much problem getting solar panels on the White House decades ago. Today, we live in the Information Age, where technology is embraced and used in many facets of life. It seems it would be even easier in this era to get the project finished. Plus, solar power technology has advanced considerably, and is being put up in huge amounts in some countries.

The White House receives about 1.5 million visitors each year. Solar panels could have been added at the beginning of the administration’s first year, to take advantage of the large number of visitors and set an example for the whole country. Energy efficiency and independence are issues that affect the national economy and our foreign policy.

At this point, it is too late to make excuses for the glaring absence of solar technology at the White House. Even George Bush had some solar presence at the White House, as The Atlantic reports: “The Bush administration has installed the first-ever solar electric system on the grounds of the White House. The National Park Service, which manages the White House complex, installed a nine kilowatt, rooftop solar electric or photovoltaic system, as well as two solar thermal systems that heat water used on the premises.”

Update: via one of our great readers/commenters:

Image Credit: Public Domain

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  • prateado

    Obama – get with the program

  • solar thermal manufacturer

    Its really a great start to install the solar panles in white house.It will inspire common people to switch to solar power.

  • So Reagan had them removed. My entire south-facing roof is covered with self-cleaning solar panels. Time to change building regulations so that all new buildings must be the same.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Self-cleaning? Got info?

  • solar equipment supplier

    Solar power is one of the staples of the growing alternate energy sector. Both commercial buildings and homes are incorporating the technology.

  • Bob_Wallace

    There are solar panels on the office building adjacent to the White House. As you point out, a 9kW system.

  • Is it possible that could have been a Solyndra project? or one of the other 13 recently failed solar companies. At least 9 of them had government money. It it very sad – seems you can’t legislate companies into prosperity.

    • ThomasGerke

      You are right. One can not legislate micro-economic success. BUT when it comes to historic developements a government can create the ecconomic enviroment to create macro-economic benefits for the mid/long term of the economy.
      That can be done by supporting newcomer technologies, crucial infrastructure projects,…At least this has always been done in the past, especially when it comes to political issues of paramount importance to the security & well being of a nation.

      Since energy is essential for all economic activity, this puts energy issues on par with matters of national security, security of the food supply,…

      This political character of energy
      (everyone being a stakeholder) is also the reason why the entire “energy market” of the US (and every other country) is extremly distorted through decades of subsidies, priviledges and direct governmental interference. (in the US, regulators often set electricity rates…)

      The idea that a new technology, that has an enourmous potential, should for some reason establish itself without any of the privilidges & support that coal, gas, oil, the electricity producers and their infrastructure experienced / enjoy, is quite naive in my opinion.

      Of course an alternative would be to rid the “market” from all distortions, enforce legeslation to pay back all subsidies accumulated during the last decades, establishing a true energy market… but doing that is quite unrealistic and would not enable new business models to enter the market.

      Unfortnuatly the world of economics is extremly ideologically today, especially in the US… many “experts” & politicans talk of free market capitalism, as if it’s a sollution to all the world needs.
      The same voices that call Solyndra a catastrophy, feed-in tariffs a market distortion and enviromental protection a waste of money, are willfully ignoring external costs (subsidies by society) and the fact that the price of energy is largly set by the King of Saudi Arabia and the Kremlin.

      • Lets us see where governments have played a part in econ, true not always with much thought. Railroads, highways, roads in general, computers, medical science, oil, coal, gas, internet, airplanes and airports, …
        The issue isn’t that government spends to much on new industry it is that it spends to much on old industry and protecting the old from the new.

        • Excellently said.

          The real problem is the foothold money has in our political system. It allows old, rich industries (and politicians not rightfully serving the public) to keep society from evolving at a good clip.

          Of course, the solution to that is a more informed and active citizenry… but we’re too busy with other things (TV shows, sports, cat videos, facebook posts about what’s for dinner, celebrities, etc.)

          However, dire times can push people to take better control of their govt again.

          • If people only realized just how dire these times are! Unfortunately, it’s going to be difficult for American Citizens to retake control of a government that has been hijacked buy the deep pocketed powers that be. All that we can do (and you do it beautifully) is to put accurate information where it can be accessed and hope that people read it and come to their senses and act on that information.

            Sadly, I wish that not putting PV panels on the roof of the White House as promised was the only promise that has been broken.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We need to open the discussion about a Constitutional amendment to define the rights of corporations as something different than people.

            PBO and broken promises.

            He failed to close Gitmo. He tried very hard but was blocked by Congress.

            If you go through the Politifact list of PBO’s “broken promises” what you will see that most of those “failed to deliver” is because each would have taken Congressional action which Republicans blocked. A few were promises that had to be traded away to the drug companies to get them to support the health care bill.

            Overall we’ve got a president who delivered an amazing amount of good stuff for us, especially when you think back to how bad our economy was when he entered office and against the unified efforts of the Republicans to make him fail.

            Health care for all Americans? Got it.

            Massive increase in car efficiency? Got it.

            Funding for renewable energy? Got it.

            End of the Iraq War? Got it.

            End of DADT? Got it.

            Closing dirty coal plants? Got it.

            Here – read some facts….


          • Some more FACTS.Indefinite Detention? Got it.A Kill list where he can order the death of ANYONE anywhere and detaining anyone ‘indefinitely’ and ordering the death of someone is ALL done without oversight by anyone, the ‘evidence’ remaining a “secret’. What happened to ‘checks and balances’?
            Also he is ordering Drone attacks whose victims are 98% innocent people, but ALL males of ‘military age’ are automatically listed as a ‘militant’ (but can be POSTHUMOUSLY found innocent). Drone attacks are also targeting funerals, wedding receptions, village meetings, AND on First Responders. Medical help will not go to a scene of a strike for hours as people die of injuries, men , women and children, because they fear a ‘double tap’ (where after a strike when others come to the aid of people, friends, relatives etc. another strike happens). Under international law ALL those things are WAR CRIMES. FACTS.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You rant for a living?

            Tone it down Jack. I can understand words written in small case.

            Your claims? Targeting “targeting funerals, wedding receptions, village meetings, AND on First Responders” – I simply don’t believe you. If you have reliable, factual information then lay it out. Wild-assed claims won’t fly.

            As for the President of the Unitied States having authority to order attacks on enemies during times of war, that’s authority that the President is given. The President orders troops into battle and drone hits are just one of the tools we use to defeat our enemies.

            You can read up on that authority here – *h* ttp://www.justice.gov/olc/warpowers925.htm
            PBO understands the significance of drone attacks which is why he has brought target control back into the White House rather than leaving it at the uniformed officer level.

            Now, do we need a national discussion about targeting US citizens? I suspect we do. However we allow police the ability to kill US citizens on a routine basis. Taking out hostage keepers by sniper fire – we make TV shows celebrating the guys who do that sort of shooting.

            We probably need some guidelines as to whom is a legitimate target. That said, I have no problem targeting a US citizen who has gone to the other side and is working to harm other US citizens. Let’s just set up some due process so that we don’t have to worry about some future president getting out of control.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Gosh, you are so correct Alan. You cannot legislate companies into prosperity.

      But you can do what we’ve done since the beginning of this democracy of ours, you can assist companies and help them get going.

      Obviously there are no guarantees that all will make it. Government assisted and companies that receive no government assistance fail every day. Going into business is speculative and many fail.

      I know that some worship the free market and think that god will solve all problems, but they worship a fickle god. The god of the free market will only invest in projects that appear to have a short route to profit. Any technology that might take years of investment without a 100% guarantee of success is cast into the underworld.

      If we want the US to keep its place as a world leader then we have to work around the failed god of the free market and do what has brought up the transcontinental railroad, electric grid, jet airplane travel, computers, internet, GPS, satellite communication, and so much of what makes our lives what they are. We have to step up as taxpayers and do the heavy initial lifting.

      Lacking a functional crystal ball, some of the companies we support will fail. Many will succeed and be the backbone of our future.

      • Also the timeline of the US market has gotten very short sighted. If it don’t turn a profit next quarter it is a huge risk. Even VCs, the big risk takers in our current system; are looking at a couple of years. And to repeat for the ### time, the government program the invested in Solyndra “planned” to have much bigger loses than it did. It is goes with investing into the cutting edge, or as some people call it the bleeding edge.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Yep. It was expected that a percentage of the businesses to be helped by the government loan guarantee program would fail. Actual failure rate was lower than projected.

          Solyndra is nothing but a blunt weapon that Republicans have used to beat President Obama. Anyone who looks just slightly close at Solyndra realizes that is was mostly a Bush administration project and that everyone (but apparently one cranky engineer) thought it a great idea at the time. The conservative financial publications thought so.

          • Yes, I agree business is risky, but a $535 million loan guarantee was announced in March 2009 and by September 2011 they were bankrupt. Execs collected large bonuses. A little strange for a startup company to pay out big bonuses so early? Who did the due diligence? They must have known the manufacturing costs were high and could be attacked by low-cost suppliers.

            By all means support R&D and new business, but don’t pump other people’s money into black holes.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You do realize that the CEO of Solyndra was a Republican, do you not?

            A little strange for a startup to pay out big bonuses? Isn’t that the Romney/Bain formula for getting really, really rich in a hurry? Get your hands on a company, take out a bunch of loans, grab the money and run?
            Look, Solyndra had a decent idea back when solar was very expensive as judged by today’s prices. Everyone – everyone – thought that Solyndra was going to put a lot of solar on flat roofs and make a lot of money as well as creating a lot of good American jobs. They figured out how to get more watts from a given amount of sensor and how to cut installation costs.
            And then, really out of the blue, the price of solar plunged and Solyndra’s idea was essentially worthless. Did the execs see that coming and grab some coin on the way down? Perhaps. I’ve seen no information about how much they took, when they took it and how what they took compares to what execs in other businesses pay themselves. (But, hey, they were Republicans…. ;o)

            Right now Apple is sitting on top of the world. Consider what would happen if a new company brought a much, much better phone/pad/laptop to market for a much, much lower price tomorrow. Apple could collapse in weeks.

            Just because you’re on top does not mean that you’ve got a guarantee that keeps you there.

            Remember all the search engines we used to use before Google came to our screens? What ever happened to Jeeves? Anyone asking him anything these days?

  • ThomasGerke

    Here’s a little “fun” fact:

    • nice. going to stick that into the post right now! 😀

      • ThomasGerke


        It’s funny how inspiration works… In a way Carter’s action to inspire the US, lead to the creation of the renewable energy supplied government district in Berlin.
        Not directly, but in a way. 🙂

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