Put Solar Panels (Back) on the White House

Target: President Barack Obama

Goal: Install solar panels on the White House.

It may seem obvious now, but equipping the White House with solar panels was a hugely progressive idea when it was first suggested by an American President: the President was Jimmy Carter and the year was 1979. At the dedication ceremony, Carter remarked that “In the year 2000 this solar water heater behind me…will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy.” But unfortunately the panels did not last that long.

By the time 1986 rolled around, then-President Ronald Reagan had had the solar panels removed and consequently switched his administration’s focus from renewable energy sources to the much less sustainable fossil fuels. For years, the unused panels have remained in a state of limbo—minus the number currently heating water at Maine’s Unity College and those on display at museums around the world.

And for just as long, the subject remained relatively untouched until the Obama administration revisited it 2010. While speaking at the GreenGov Symposium in October of that year, United States Secretary of Energy Steven Chu pledged that “The White House will lead by example.” Further stating, “I’m pleased to announce that by the end of this spring, there will be solar panels that convert sunlight to energy and a solar hot water heater on the roof of the White House.” That spring came and went with no results.

Despite nudging from various national groups, there still remains to be seen any solar panels atop 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But that does not mean there aren’t any on the grounds. In a largely unpublicized move, the National Park Service installed a few panels onto the ground’s maintenance building in 2002. Oh, but what a message would be sent if the White House were outfitted in solar panels!

Dear Mr. President,

As a country, the United States has prided itself on being progressive, being ahead of the pack and taking steps into the dark to help shed a light on new ideas. Already the White House, a symbol of the nation as a whole, has made good on its status by transforming a part of the land into an organic garden—encouraging citizens to do the same. And already (decades ago) it has pledged its commitment to sustainable energy.

In the years since, the solar panels have been dismantled, leaving a giant question mark where there was once certainty. In 2010, your administration pledged to once again install solar panels atop the national landmark, but the commitment has yet to be fulfilled. I am writing to you today to ask that you stick with this pledge and lead by example.

In the grand scheme of things it is a small task, but overall it is a grand gesture that proves to the country (and the world) that America is serious about its commitment to renewable energy.


[Your Name Here]

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One Comment

  1. Ruth Rogers Ruth Rogers says:

    We are very thankful for the fossil fuel age. May the Solar and wind energy, and micro-hydro on the side of rivers and bays and in an area of the bay be the next clean energy. May we all be happy together and make a good transition. Love, Ruth R.

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