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Solar at the White House – again

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Today, an official confirmed that solar panels are being installed on the White House roof as “a part of an energy retrofit that will improve the overall energy efficiency of the building.” This is the second time that solar panels have graced the building’s roof. In the late 1970s President Carter has 32 panels installed – they were removed in 1986 by President Reagan.

These panels will join a solar grid of 167 panels installed on the White House grounds in 2002 under President George W. Bush. Those panels joined two solar thermal systems that provide hot water and keep the Presidential pool nice and comfy.

These panels are the latest in the Obama Administration’s efforts to reduce the U.S. government’s environmental footprint. The effort was kicked off in the fall of 2009 with the signing of Executive Order 13514, which pledged reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across all Federal government activities. In a press release issued with the Executive Order, President Obama stated that:

As the largest consumer of energy in the U.S. economy, the Federal government can and should lead by example when it comes to creating innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, conserve water, reduce waste, and use environmentally-responsible products and technologies.

The following year, President Obama pledged that solar would soon find its way back to the White House. Three years later, it appears that he is making good on that promise.

It is estimated that the costs of the energy efficiency upgrades and new onsite power generation (solar panels) comes with just an 8-year payback period. According to the former Federal Environmental Executive, Michelle Moore (who oversaw the development and implementation of E.O. 13514), “green government is good government; it’s good from a “bottom-line” perspective as well; it makes good business sense.”

Photo Credit: Photo of White House, South side by Matt H. Wade via Creative Commons.

Melissa C. Lott About the Author: An engineer and researcher who works at the intersection of energy, environment, technology, and policy. Follow on Twitter @mclott.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. sault 5:47 pm 08/15/2013

    Need to re-check the facts on this article. Reagan took the panels off the White House as one of his first actions as President back in 1981:

    “President Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, and one of his first moves was to order the solar panels removed.”

    http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/thepresidentandcabinet/tp/History-of-White-House-Solar-Panels.htm

    Link to this

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