Solar Panels and the White House: A Brief History
The White House recently announced plans to install solar panels on the esteemed presidential residence. The solar array reflects Obama’s promise to have 20% of the federal government’s energy come from renewable sources by 2020. Though this is commendable, Obama isn’t the first president to install solar panels on the White House. Here's a little history lesson:
Carter is the first president to install solar panels on the White House. He fit 32 on the presidential residence in order to heat water. At the time, there was an embargo on Arab oil and the US was facing an energy crisis.
“A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum, 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,” predicted Carter in 1979.
Carter's dreams for the future didn't come true when Reagan, the next U.S. president, decided to take them down. Some say the solar array was removed for repairs and maintenance and never put back up, while others claim that the real reason is because Reagan did not take them seriously. Either way, they weren't reinstalled for years to come.
George W. Bush
George Bush was actually the president to reintroduce solar energy to the White House, but this didn't receive much national attention. In a rather hush-hush manner, he installed a photovoltaic system and two thermal units in order to heat the White House swimming pool. Though it wasn't as grand as Jimmy Carter's installation, it was a stepping stone to a more energy efficient White House.
Three years after the Obama's administration promise to install solar panels on the White House, the president is finally following through. This project will be much more elaborate than Bush's installation, improving the overall energy efficiency of the historic building. Obama is also updating building controls and variable fan speeds in effort to convey his commitment to climate change issues.
-Image by iStockphoto/jgroup
Ailsa Sachdev is an editorial intern at Sierra. She is a rising senior at Mount Holyoke College and spent the last semester reporting on witchcraft in Morocco. She is passionate about food and travel, and knows how to say "I'm hungry" in over 10 languages.