Sunday, July 13, 2014
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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.

Will panels atop White House boost solar industry?

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

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.

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."

 

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at sbauers@phillynews.com.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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