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Over the years the White House has endorsed many different energy policies. And, interestingly enough, even had its own solar array on the roof!

In the wake of the 1970’s energy crisis, President Jimmy Carter embraced renewable energy. In a 1979 speech he said, “Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 – never… I will soon submit legislation to Congress for the creation of this nation’s first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.” That same year, Carter walked the talk and installed a 32-panel system on the White House.

The system that adorned the White House unfortunately did not survive the Reagan years. Months after Reagan allowed Carter’s solar financial incentives to expire, the panels were removed during routine roof repairs and never replaced. Dr. Szego, the man responsible for getting Carter to install solar on the roof, remembered that the Reagan officials thought the system was a joke. Reagan’s Attorney General and confidant Edwin Meese is said to have been behind the removal of the panels because he believed they weren’t befitting a superpower. Interestingly enough, as late as 2008 Meese was still issuing memos from his think tank urging President Bush to stall on climate change regulation. The system that had once rested on top of the White House later ended up on top of a cafeteria at Unity College in Maine.

Reagan’s end to the White House solar system wasn’t the last time solar made an appearance at the White House. In 2003, at the request of the National Park Service, President Bush had a system installed on one of the grounds maintenance buildings as well as a solar thermal system to service the White House spa and hot tub. While it’s great that solar once again is present at the White House, it has taken a definite back seat.

-Nat Smith


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Posted by Danny Kennedy

Danny Kennedy co-founded Sungevity and now serves as strategic advisor. He is an internationally recognized opinion leader on climate and energy issues. He is the author of Rooftop Revolution: How Solar Power Can Save Our Economy - and Planet - from Dirty Energy (2012), a book that has been described as the clean energy manifesto for the next greatest generation.

One Comment

  1. That was very interesting.

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