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The White House installs solar panels at long last

This week the Washington Post reported that solar panels are being installed on the White House. This is exciting news, but why has it taken so long? It’s been nearly three years since the Obama administration pledged to put solar on the First Family’s residence. In October 2010 we ran a blog entitled “The White House Goes Solar, Again,” and we assumed it would happen in less than three years. We hear complaints of the red tape involved with getting solar approved for grid connection in the US, but three years ago we thought it was a great idea and it’s still a great idea today.

Back in 2010 a group of students from Unity College (the school that got  most of the solar panels that had been removed from the White House in the Reagan administration) made a public statement by trekking to Washington to try to persuade the Obama administration to install solar on the White House. Sungevity even offered panels for free, but this time around there has been no mention of what company is supplying the panels in the installation. The statement that was released simply promised that they are American-made.

History of solar on the White House

The panels that used to be on the White House were installed in the 1970s during the Carter administration. There were 32 of them and they heated hot water. Then they were removed during the Reagan administration in 1986. Ten years ago, during the George W. Bush administration, solar was installed to heat the White House pool.

Putting solar anywhere is a good thing, but it’s a great display of support for the environment and for a growing industry, when solar is put in public places.  (See “Appearances are Everything: Solar in the public eye”) SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch said, “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.”

We look forward to finding out what company’s panels will grace the White House, along with the balance of system suppliers. The US solar energy industry is booming right now. There are a lot of solar panel manufacturers in the US, with First Solar and Sunpower included in the top ten of worldwide manufacturers. There is also a long list solar inverters that are manufactured in the US including ABB, Advanced Energy, Kaco new energy, Outback Power and Solectria Renewables. When we find out we’ll let you know who the lucky winners are that are powering the White House.

While it took three years to get solar on the White House, the Obama administration has built a strong record of support for renewable energy. The President set a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83% by 2050. The good news is that we’re getting there: Energy generation from renewables has doubled since 2008. The 2013 budget provides additional funding for tax credits for advanced energy manufacturing, which would incentivize more than $20 billion in private sector investment. The Production Tax Credit for renewable energy generation was extended. The Department of Energy loan programs have supported over 30 clean energy projects that are expected to employ more than 60,000 Americans. Solar, in fact, is one of the fastest growing industries in the US, now employing approximately 120,000 Americans in more than 5600 companies.

Putting solar on the White House is not only putting solar in the public eye, but it is walking the talk. And while the White House solar installation may generate just a small portion of the energy consumed at the residence, it is a step forward. The US military is demonstrating that solar is a wise choice, with more than 130MW installed on Navy, Army and Air Force bases in more than 30 states. These installations demonstrate that solar is a wise choice and we hope to see solar installed on more government buildings to provide clean, renewable power  to add to our energy mix and to boost this important and growing US industry.

Written by Anne Fischer, Managing Editor, Solar Novus Today

Labels: solar panels,US government solar,Obama administration,White House,balance of system

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