Plains, Georgia, is a small town that is just south of Columbus, Macon, and Atlanta and north of Albany. It is the hometown of former United States President Jimmy Carter. On his farmland, there were once nut and soybean crops that would stretch their fingers to the ends of the horizons as if reaching for the unknown. Those have been replaced by 3,852 solar panels that provide clean energy for over half of Plains, GA.
President Carter has always been an advocate for clean energy, and was the first president to put solar panels on the White House. “A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people,” Carter said in 1979.
Fast forward almost 40 years later into 2017 and we have President Carter working in tandem with SolAmerica to install solar panels on 10 acres of his farm. The goal is to power most of Plains, GA, which is home to 727 residents. Today, those solar panels provide more than half of the small town’s power. One megawatt translates into enough power to light up 400–900 homes. President Carter’s solar farm can now provide 1.3 megawatts under the right conditions.
In an interview with Paul Rauber, published in Sierra, President Carter talks about why he is so passionate about clean energy. He grew up on a farm during the Great Depression years. There was no electricity or running water. His family’s first appliance was a windmill that piped water into their home. “In fact, we didn’t have any gasoline or diesel motors for a number of decades,” President Carter says. Their energy came from corn — it fed the animals they used, the animals they ate, and everyone depended on it. “So when I became president, it was natural for me to want to extend this capability to people who were in danger of losing their energy supply.”
The solar panels at the White House were dismantled by President Reagan and are on display at museums around the world. Solar panels didn’t get put on the roof of the White House again until Obama came along.
This can be seen as a reflection of the division of our politicians, approximately half of whom (from a certain political party) deny the reality of global warming. Mostly those on the conservative right seem to think (or pretend to think) it’s fake news, while those on the left are scratching their heads at the ignorance of the other side. However, one thing both sides do have in common is that there are some on each side who care for our planet and who acknowledge that climate change is happening whether we want to believe it or not. I mean, there have to be people — even politicians — whose eyes are open and are seeing what’s in front of them. The ice is melting in Antarctica and that’s not random.
President Carter mentioned that his solar panels could be in museums, or we could, as a nation, be more open to solar. Solar is much more popular now after decades of dramatic cost drops, and companies (like Tesla and its Solarglass Roof) continue to innovate in order to bring more compelling and lower cost products to consumers. Perhaps Plains, Georgia, could become a small-scale example of something Elon Musk has talked about before — powering much of the world with solar farms.
He’s def wrong. Solar power is a Gigawatt per square km! All you need is a 100 by 100 mile patch in a deserted corner of Arizona, Texas or Utah (or anywhere) to more than power the entire USA. This analysis goes through calcs https://t.co/fI1I452tm6
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 7, 2019