After 28 Years, Solar Panels Are Back at the White House

Delayed nearly four years, the energy savers are up and running at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
May 13, 2014·
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

Looks like the White House is taking the National Climate Assessment, an ominous climate change report released last week, to heart. President Obama has announced that solar panels are making a comeback on the White House roof.

A few years after the 1973–74 Arab oil embargo, former President Jimmy Carter installed 32 solar panels at the White House. But the next administration, President Ronald Reagan’s, wasn’t a fan. The solar panels were taken down during roof resurfacing work in 1986. President Obama announced the solar panel reinstallation plan in 2010, and work began in August 2013.

The rooftop energy generators are part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which was announced in June of last year. The administration said that if the plan succeeds, its outlined actions will be the equivalent of taking 80 million vehicles off the road for one year. According to White House staffer James Doherty, the panels installed at the executive residence are the typical size of those used on the average American house. These can generate 6.3 kilowatts of solar energy.

The energy source’s popularity has surged in recent years. The total amount of solar power installed in the country increased from 1.2 gigawatts in 2008 to 13 gigawatts today. Compared with 2011, installation also costs 60 percent less.

Scientists such as Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson have joined the debate, speaking out against climate change nonbelievers. Some members of Congress are skeptical. House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, has called the recent climate report “a political document intended to frighten Americans into believing that any abnormal weather we experience is the direct result of human CO2 emissions.”

Even so, in the White House video above, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz says the installation sends the “really important message that solar is here.”

“I am very bullish on the future of solar energy as a key part of our clean-energy future,” adds Moniz.