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The White House Goes Solar (Again)

01/15/14

If you're considering adding rooftop solar panels to your home, rest assured that you'll be in good company with the most prestigious residence in America: the White House.

President Barack Obama recently had solar panels installed on the roof of the White House as part of an energy-friendly overhaul that also included temperature control devices and fans. It's not the first time the White House has had solar panels, actually: Jimmy Carter had a rooftop solar thermal system installed during his presidency, but they were removed in 1981 after Ronald Reagan took over the Oval Office. Most of those old solar panels went to Maine's Unity College; others are at Carter's presidential library in Atlanta and the Smithsonian's Museum of American History.

President Obama's solar installation marks the fulfillment of a commitment the presidential administration made in 2010 to increase the use of renewable energy. The White House would buy between 20 to 50 solar panels in a bidding process, according to the 2010 announcement, in a project that "reflects President Obama's strong commitment to U.S. leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home," said Steven Chu, who was energy secretary at the time. "Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come."

The White House has not released the name of the solar panel supplier or the cost of the installation, but did say the project "which will 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," according to the Washington Post.

President Obama has talked about the benefits of clean energy throughout his terms in office; in June 2013, he launched a plan to fight the impact of climate change that includes investing in clean energy technology and opening up public lands to renewable energy production facilities. The United States has also made an international commitment to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

"We applaud the President for making solar a shining symbol at the White House for clean, renewable energy," the Solar Energy Industries Association said in a statement. "We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress on even more ways to expand the use of solar throughout the federal government. "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. Today, more than 30 utility-scale, clean energy solar projects are under construction... putting thousands of electricians, steelworkers, and laborers to work, while also helping to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. These facilities, along with rooftop solar on homes, businesses and schools, will generate electricity for generations to come."

- Michael Chagala

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