White House goes solar

  • Environment
  • Monday, 26 May 2014

Roof panel, water heater will pay for themselves in energy savings over the next eight years.

THE White House is finally on the solar grid, in response to prodding by environmentalists and nearly four years after then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu pledged that solar panels and a solar water heater would be installed on the historic building’s roof.

The American-made panels are converting sunlight into energy at the first family’s residence as part of President Barack Obama’s “commitment to lead by example to increase the use of clean energy in the US,” said White House spokesman Matt Lehrich.

He said the panels are a part of a plan to improve the energy efficiency of the building and “demonstrate that historic buildings can incorporate solar energy and energy efficiency upgrades.”

It is estimated that the upgrades will pay for themselves in energy savings over the next eight years – if the next president doesn’t remove them. President Jimmy Carter installed 32 panels in 1979, when an Arab oil embargo spiked fuel prices, but President Ronald Reagan removed them in 1986 when the roof was resurfaced.

President George W. Bush had some installed on a maintenance building and on the president’s cabana to heat water for the outdoor White House pool, and environmentalists have been pressing Obama to go even further.

The retrofit includes energy-saving equipment such as updated building controls and variable-speed fans, as well as 6.3 kilowatts of solar generation.

The size of the array of panels used is about the same as that for the average American house, White House usher James Doherty says, noting that because of security concerns, the entire roof couldn’t be covered. — McClatchy Tribune Information Services

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