Solar panel basics

Presidential power over solar power: The White House’s on/off relationship with solar

The White House has been a constant symbol of America since it was built in 1792. Since its construction, there have been few cosmetic changes to this historic landmark. With each new administration, however, there are minor adjustments. Renewable energy production is one aspect of the White House that alters significantly with each president. Solar power technology has been rapidly developing over the past few decades, but the White House has been slow to adapt. Former President Jimmy Carter pioneered efforts to make the White House more environmentally friendly back in 1979.

Solar power inaugural White House installation

Carter was the first US president to install solar panels on the White House. During his presidency, he placed 32 panels on the roof. Since the Regan administration had the panels removed, George W. Bush and Barak Obama have been the only two other presidents to invest in solar energy at the White House. Former President Bush and the National Park Service combined efforts to install solar panels on land surrounding national landmarks. Under the Obama administration, the White House roof received new photovoltaic (PV) panels to produce clean energy.

The White House’s on/off relationship with solar panels

Former President Carter took office with a mission to advance renewable energy production. Carter’s solar panels were an opportunity to educate the public about the benefits of solar electricity, even though they were mostly for publicity. Back in the 1970s, solar power was an emerging technology so the White House solar panels were not very efficient. The electricity generated from the solar panels was used to heat water in White House cafeteria and laundry room.

After just a couple years of use, Ronald Regan had the solar panels removed and relocated to a college in Maine. With support from former President Carter and his state senator, Peter Marbach convinced the government to give Unity College the solar panels for just $500. As the development director at Unity College, Marbach’s mission was to further environmental education at the school. The panels had been carelessly stored in a government warehouse when Marbach went to retrieve them. Sixteen of the 32 panels were installed on campus but have since been removed.

Solar panels power education

President Carter’s solar panels are no longer being actively used at the White House or at Unity College, but they’re still serving a purpose. These solar panels are being displayed in museums to educate people about the history of solar technology and the importance of clean energy. The Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC and the Solar Science and Technology Museum in China are two notable organizations that have received solar panel donations. China’s solar industry has been experiencing rapid growth. There is tremendous potential for solar power to benefit low-income families in remote areas by providing basic home needs, such as warm water. The opportunities for solar electricity in China have fueled new programs and widespread interest in the technology.

Solar installations on historical buildings

The White House is not the only historical landmark that has upgraded to clean, renewable solar energy. Recognizable structures such as the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, and the Vatican all benefit from solar power. There are special considerations and additional planning involved when installing solar panels on historical buildings. The building’s structural integrity and overall character have to be preserved, which means each application presents unique challenges. Historical landmarks are also subject to additional regulations. With these strict guidelines for historical preservation, sometimes solar panels are just not an option.

The future of solar technology shows a lot of potential, especially as scientists are learning from the past. Support from former President Carter and other renewable energy leaders has made it possible for solar panels to develop. As environmentally friendly initiatives advance, we can all look forward to a future that’s clean and bright.