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Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

White House To Install Solar Panels

October 5, 2010

White House officials said that solar panels will be installed in the White House by spring 2011, helping to heat water and supply some electricity.

White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley and Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the plans on Tuesday.

“This project reflects President Obama’s strong commitment to U.S. leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home,” said Chu said in a statement. “Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come.”

The White House’s next step is to find a company to perform the installations.  The Department of Energy (DOE) said in its statement that the two installations are meant to show these technologies are available and reliable.

Chu listed a number of steps the DOE has taken to improve energy efficiency at agency facilities.  He said that the agency’s computing facilities are using sensors and virtualization to cut cooling costs, and roof replacements at DOE buildings use light-colored roofs to reduce the cooling load.

The DOE will start submetering electricity usage for a contest to see which agency can save the most money. 

“We want to make energy and money-saving a social norm,” Chu said.

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush both used solar energy during their days in the White House.  Carter in the late 1970s spent $30,000 on a solar water-heating system for West Wing offices.  Bush’s solar systems helped power a maintenance building and some of the mansion, as well as heated water for the pool.

Obama has been under increasing pressure to lead by example by installing solar at the presidential estate, which is something White House officials said has been under consideration since he first took office.

Global warming activists carried one of Carter’s solar panels last month from Unity College in main to Washington to urge Obama to put solar panels on his roof.  Carter’s solar panels were taken down in 1986. 

The campaign followed calls by the solar industry for the White House to become a national billboard for solar power.

“Putting solar on the roof of the nation’s most important real estate is a powerful symbol calling on all Americans to rethink how we generate electricity,” Solar Energy Industries Association President Rhone Resch said.

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