Thursday, October 07, 2010

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.

6 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

Marcel F. Williams said...

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.