- Mark McDowell
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Solar Farm to Sprout on White House Roof
A new green initiative is joining the White House’s already famous organic vegetable garden. President Barack Obama plans to install solar panels on top of the White House’s living quarters to heat water and provide power to some of the historic mansion. The panels are scheduled to be in place by the spring of 2011, according to Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
Former President Jimmy Carter installed a $30,000 solar water-heating system for West Wing offices during 1976; they were removed 10 years later. George W. Bush installed a solar system that provided power to a maintenance building, parts of the White House and to heat water for the swimming pool. President Obama, who is a strong supporter of renewable energy, has been under pressure from the solar industry and environmental activists like 350.org to lead by example. According to White House sources, solar panels have been under discussion since the Obama family first took up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Global warming activists from 350.org brought one of Jimmy Carter’s solar panels from Unity College in Maine to Washington, D.C., in an effort to persuade President Obama and other world leaders to install panels on their residences. Bill McKibben, 350.org’s founder, believes the administration is doing the right thing. “If it has anything like the effect of the White House garden, it could be a trigger for a wave of solar installations across the country and around the world,” McKibben said.
The price tag for the White House solar project is not yet known as it is still in the design phase. Another question is how much electricity it will generate. According to a survey of available roof space, the system has the potential to include 25 to 75 panels and could produce up to 19,700 kilowatt hours of annual electricity. A typical household would save $3,200 a year on their electricity bill and $1,000 on heating water.
“Around the world, the White House is a symbol of freedom and democracy,” Chu said. “It should also be a symbol of America’s commitment to a clean energy future.”