Smithsonian gets solar panel that once graced White House roof

August 21, 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama has made climate change legislation one of his top goals and has pushed for more clean, renewable energy like solar and wind power.

But back in 1979, when another Democrat was in the White House, 32 solar panels graced the roof above the Oval Office.

Part of an initiative called “Solar America,” the panels turned sunlight into electricity that heated water in the staff kitchen — which President Jimmy Carter often used. They were removed during Ronald Reagan’s administration in 1986.

Now, one of those presidential solar panels has joined the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

“The White House solar panel is evidence of an American president leading by example to promote his administration’s agenda,” Harry Rubenstein, chair of the museum’s division of politics and reform, said in a statement. “It displays how President Carter reinforced his policies through a personal gesture taking place in his own home.”

Unity College donated the panel to the museum this summer. The college in rural Maine got the panels in 1991. It refurbished some of them and installed them on top of the college cafeteria, and the panels heated water there until they maxed out their life span in 2005.

We were wondering if readers would like to see Obama install solar panels on top of the White House again?
It would certainly send a message — similar to the example set by First Lady Michelle Obama when she planted a vegetable garden on the White House lawn to promote healthy eating.

— Writing and reporting by Laura Isensee

(Photo Credit: United College and GreenBang/President Jimmy Carter inspects solar panels installed on top of the White House on June 30, 1979)


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Very cool story. Yes, it would be great to see President Obama put solar panels on the White House roof. I’m assuming it’s only a matter of time.

Posted by brad newman | Report as abusive

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Posted by A Green Vocabulary | Nebraska Solar Installation | Report as abusive

Now if Reagan had followed the example and kept with Carter’s plan to eliminate foreign oil in 30 years, right now we’d be Mid-east oil free, climate change would be a manageable issue, and al Qaeda would have lost the majority of their funding. The Soviet Union may or may not have collapsed (would have helped Europeans keep cheap gas imports, unlike today), and we’d still know where the ‘bad guys’ were. But running up deficits, getting in bed with the Saudis and preaching the power of markets were much more in vogue. I guess the solar panel display should be labelled ‘what could have been’.

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I think Obama should install solar panels on the White House roof.

Posted by Joe | Report as abusive

Using solar energy for almost all the purposes helps in the restoration as well as keeping the other energy reserves.

Posted by solar panel | Report as abusive

Of this whole issue, the most important fact is that the Solar Panel is once again coming into use at the White House. That is important than anything else. This should be an example for the whole country how power needs to be conserved by solar energy usage.

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