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White House Going Green with Solar Panels

Smart Grid

October 05, 2010

White House Going Green with Solar Panels

By Susan J. Campbell
TMCnet Contributing Editor

If the Obama administration hopes to drive the green message to all Americans, it needs to start at home. It seems the president is doing just that with plans to install solar panels on top of the living quarters of the White House. 

An Associated Press (News - Alert) report indicated the solar panels are scheduled to be installed by spring of 2011. The panels will heat water and provide some electricity for the first family. 

The plans were announced by Energy Secretary Steven Chu in Washington at a conference of local, state, academic and nonprofit leaders focused on identifying how the federal government can improve its own environmental performance. 

While the move toward solar panels is bold, Obama is not the first president to “go green.” Solar power was used by former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush during their time in the White House. 

In the late 1970s, Carter spent some $30,000 on a solar water-heating system for the offices in the West Wing. The solar systems installed by Bush powered a maintenance building, part of the mansion and heated water for the pool.

Renewable energy has been repeatedly championed by the current president, who is now under increasing pressure to walk the walk. The decision to make the solar panels a priority may have something to do with legislation’s attempt to reduce global warming pollution died in the Senate. 

Global warming activists with carried one of the Carter solar panels – which were removed in 1986 – from Unity College in Maine to Washington last month. The move was part of the effort to urge Obama to install solar panels. The group has launched a global campaign to persuade world leaders to make use of solar in their homes.

Bill McKibben, the founder of the group, commended the administration for doing the right thing. "If it has anything like the effect of the White House garden, it could be a trigger for a wave of solar installations across the country and around the world," McKibben said in a statement.

The solar industry is hoping McKibben is right and has already called on the White House to serve as a national billboard for solar energy. The press may take care of that as simply reporting on this placement of solar panels is likely to cause Americans throughout the country to re-think their own energy plan.

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Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

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