A White House official confirmed to the Washington Post on Thursday that installation of solar panels began this week on the First Family’s residence.
The plan to use solar energy was first revealed in October 2010, but was not put into effect until now. During a GreenGov symposium at George Washington University, then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the plan to install American-made solar panels in the spring of 2011.
“This project reflects President Obama’s strong commitment to U.S. leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home,” Chu said at the time. “Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come.”
This is not the first attempt to include solar power in the White House’s energy mix. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter installed panels on the roof, which were taken down by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
“No one should ever have taken down the panels Jimmy Carter put on the roof,” 350.org founder Bill McKibben said in an emailed press statement. “But it's very good to know that once again the country's most powerful address will be drawing some of that power from the sun.”
McKibben initially brought attention to the issue in 2010, when he discovered one of the panels from 1979 at Unity College in Maine, which was being used to heat water for the university cafeteria at the time. In September of that year, McKibben and a number of Unity students returned the panel to the White House, asking for it to be reinstalled. Although the request was denied, it was only one month later that the White House announced the solar panel bid.
When the first day of summer 2011 arrived and solar panels had yet to be reinstalled on the White House, McKibben expressed his disappointment. At the time, he called the project "a no brainer" that couldn't get done in time because Obama considers climate change "a second-tier problem."
Yet McKibben seemed optimistic about the administration's renewed interest in the installation. "Better late than never," the activist quipped in his recent statement.