Solar Panels on the White House a Pipe Dream?

Written By Brianna Panzica

Posted June 22, 2011

Back in the fall of 2010, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu formally announced the Obama administration planned to bring solar panels to the White House before the start of summer 2011.

The plan, he mentioned, included a solar water heating system as well as photovoltaic cells for the rooftop.

Well, the start of summer was Tuesday, and still those solar panels are conspicuously absent.

So what happened?

Ramamoorthy Ramesh, Department of Energy director of the SunShot Initiative and Solar Energy Technology Program, gave a statement Monday via blog post announcing despite delays, the administration still plans to follow through.

Delays were blamed on the difficulties with contracting the project.

This time, no completion date was given, and it was made clear none could be set until official construction plans were in order.

That sort of ambiguity nine months ago would’ve at least allowed for less criticism today.

The roof of the White House did see solar panels once before during the Carter administration. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter followed through with installing solar panels he hoped would last.

They didn’t, as Ronald Reagan removed them just one term later.

This time around, however, solar is increasingly more popular and proving to be more successful.

Despite slow movement on its own project, the Obama administration has shown support for solar technologies by investing in companies dedicated to research.

According to The Huffington Post, $150 million in DOE investing has gone to a company called 1366 Technologies that focuses on developing a solar project.

But to Bill McKibben, founder of and the Put Solar On It online petition for White House solar panels, this doesn’t matter so much as the broken promise to set an example.

He was highly critical of the Obama administration’s eagerness to make this promise, even announcing a deadline, and its subsequent nerve to fail to follow through.

It is discouraging, but we’re still being promised that it will happen.

Weigh those promises as you will.

That’s all for now,


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