Will panels atop White House boost solar industry?

President Obama's 2010 promise is taking shape. Officials confirmed last Friday that solar panels -- made by a U.S. company -- will be installed atop the White House.

I haven't seen any photos yet, but supposedly workers are atop the building this week, installing the panels.

obama solar
President Obama touring a Florida solar facility in 2009. (AP photo)

The White House used to have solar panels, during Jimmy Carter's presidency. (In truth, they provided hot water, not electricity.) But Ronald Reagan had them removed. 

Eventually, they wound up at Unity College in Maine, where they provided hot water for a dining hall.

After Obama was elected, environmental groups put pressure on the White House to install new panels. Bill McKibben's 350.org group hatched a great publicity stunt -- bringing the old panels to the White House, accompanied by a petition with 50,000 signatures. 

McKibben said of the current panel project, "better late than never," adding that "it's very good to know that once again the country's most powerful address will be drawing some of that power from the sun.”

So if it's good enough for the president, is solar good enough for you?

Naturally, it depends on your site and your budget. But Rhone Resch, CEO and president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, praised Obama for "leading by example. Today, solar is generating enough electricity to power more than 1.3 million American homes, and we’re extraordinarily proud to be adding the White House to this constantly-growing list."

“Installing solar panels on the First Family’s official residence, arguably the most famous building in America, underscores the growing popularity of solar energy nationwide," he said in a press release.

Not to mention that the price has dropped significantly since the Carter panels were installed. In the last two years alone, the price of the average system has dropped nearly 40 percent, Resch said.

Officials said in an email to the Washington Post that they hoped the project would "help demonstrate that historic buildings can incorporate solar energy and energy efficiency upgrades, is estimated to pay for itself in energy savings over the next eight years."

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