Skip to main content

Who’s Got the Solar Panels?

President Barack Obama Holds Recovery Act -Qz6cUR_Hy5l Well, President Jimmy Carter was one. His panels were taken down by his successor, ronald Reagan, and ended up at Unity college in Maine. An environmental activist, Bill McKibben, decided to take them back to the White House last month to see if the current occupant, Barack Obama, might reinstall them. But he had a problem:

As McKibben's party made its way from Maine to Washington, D.C., they had just one "nagging concern": They hadn't heard any confirmation from the White House that Obama would see them.

But this has kind of a soft human interest angle, so why not?

In the end, McKibben and company did end up with a meeting, with two unnamed "environmental bureaucrats," but the Carter panel and the Sungevity donation were refused.

Sungevity was going to donate a “full solar system” – I’m not sure what that means – a system capable of running the entire White House? In any event, no go.

The response? Not too good:

The Obama administration's reluctance to put a Carter-era solar panel on the White House roof was understandable, even if repulsively pusillanimous. The last thing the White House wanted to do was to give the right another talking point comparing Obama to Jimmy Carter.

But maybe the administration had its own plan in mind that it wasn’t ready to share with McKibben:

Going the green way, the White House will soon be installed with solar panels and solar heaters, in a reflection of the US President Barack Obama's policy of promoting alternative and clean sources of energy.

Energy secretary Steven Chu said the solar panels and solar water heaters are expected to be in place by early next year at the rooftop of the presidential residence.

I’ve no problem with that – seems a good demonstration of solar energy. Of course, in some quarters, it cues unattractive comparisons with President Carter, but since Carter is now best known by many as an amiable elder statesman who does good works and turns out bestsellers in a variety of genres, that’s likely to help not hurt the effort.

And those who want to make such comparisons need to accommodate President George W. Bush’s own installation of solar panels in 2003:

The Bush administration has installed the first-ever solar electric system on the grounds of the White House. The National Park Service, which manages the White House complex, installed a nine kilowatt, rooftop solar electric or photovoltaic system, as well as two solar thermal systems that heat water used on the premises.

It makes President Carter look downright prescient, doesn’t it? (Though I do wonder if Bush’s system is still there or was taken down when he finished his term.)

In any event, there’s no downside. Solar panels seem right at home at the White House. Come to think of it, a small wind turbine wouldn’t go amiss either.

President Barack Obama and a bank of solar panels – no, not at the White House, but during a speech he gave last year at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

Comments

Kit P said…
Since solar has been at the White House since 2003, it would be nice to see how well it is working before putting more up. If PV works better in the southwest than DC (nothing works better in DC), it would seem like that is where the limited resource of PV panels should be put.

Kit P
I think having a noisy wind turbine near the White House might give the President headaches. But, of course, he already has a lot of headaches so maybe he wouldn't know the difference:-)
DocForesight said…
Former POTUS Carter known as "an amiable elder statesman" is a rather generous assessment. Yes, he's well-known and applauded for his work with Habitat for Humanity, but he has also made intemperate comments about his successors, particularly when he was overseas. I don't recall RR, GHWB or GWB making similar critiques of their successors.

I, too, would like to know the actual output of the 9kW system and what is the actual cost per kWh produced.
Anonymous said…
Obama'd better bring a bag of ice to the next beer summit, the fridge probably won't be running at 100%.
Charles Barton said…
Some time ago, Brian Wang offered a particularly wicked post in which he argued that roof top solar was more deadly than Chernobyl, because of the high risks of fatal accidents involving falls. The very real safety issues of rooftop solar are seldom mentioned, either by advocates or the media.
Anonymous said…
I think it would be a worthwhile addition to whitehouse.gov to have a link to White House solar panel statistics. For the PV panels, I would suggest a continuous display as follows:

Capacity (KW)

Output now (KW) % of Capcty
Output Prv 24 hr (KWH) % of Capcty
Similar lines for prev week, month, and year.

I am less certain what sort of meaningful display would be appropriate for the water heating.

Popular posts from this blog

Knowing What You’ve Got Before It’s Gone in Nuclear Energy

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior director of policy analysis and strategic planning at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

Nuclear energy is by far the largest source of carbon prevention in the United States, but this is a rough time to be in the business of selling electricity due to cheap natural gas and a flood of subsidized renewable energy. Some nuclear plants have closed prematurely, and others likely will follow.
In recent weeks, Exelon and the Omaha Public Power District said that they might close the Clinton, Quad Cities and Fort Calhoun nuclear reactors. As Joni Mitchell’s famous song says, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
More than 100 energy and policy experts will gather in a U.S. Senate meeting room on May 19 to talk about how to improve the viability of existing nuclear plants. The event will be webcast, and a link will be available here.
Unlike other energy sources, nuclear power plants get no specia…

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…