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White House Solar Panels: Maybe Next Year

6/21/2011 12:00:00 AM

Tags: solar panels, White House, President Obama, Energy Department

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailWhen the question gets asked often enough, it does finally get answered.

Last week I posted about a collective effort to ask the Obama administration what happened to the solar panels they pledged to put on the White House this spring. Yesterday, on the very last official day of spring, we got our answer. Ramamoorthy Ramesh, director of the SunShot Initiative and Solar Energy Technologies Program, posted “An Update on White House Solar Panels and Our Solar Program” on Last fall, to underscore the Obama Administration’s commitment to clean and renewable energy, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley announced that the Energy Department would lead a project to install American solar photovoltaic panels and a solar hot water heater on the roof of the White House,” he writes. “This project is one component of the Energy Department’s larger, ambitious SunShot Initiative to reduce the total installed cost of solar energy systems by about 75 percent before the end of the decade. The initiative will make solar energy cost-competitive, without subsidies, with any other form of energy.”

But the White House panels will have to wait. “The Energy Department remains on the path to complete the White House solar demonstration project, in keeping with our commitment, and we look forward to sharing more information—including additional details on the timing of this project—after the competitive procurement process is completed,” Ramesh writes.

“Translated from the bureaucratic, I think this means ‘we're working on it, just not very hard.’' environmentalist and author Bill McKibben, founder of, wrote today on Alternet, McKibben’s take is that Obama is partial to coal and may be afraid of comparisons to one-term president Jimmy Carter, who put solar panels on the White House back in the 1970s. “My best guess? I think he's just concentrating on other things, and that to him global warming is a second-tier problem,” McKibben concludes.

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