Obama to install solar panels on White House

When United States Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced earlier this morning that President Barack Obama will install solar panels on the White House, one of those who campaigned hardest to make it happen was in the Maldives.

Danny Kennedy, CEO and founder of Sungevity, and Oakland solar company, is in the Maldives this week installing solar panels on President Mhamed Nasheed’s roof.

Kennedy’s company, Sungevity, which finances, installs and maintains photovoltaic panels on residential roofs with no up-front cost to homeowners, volunteered to donate panels to the Obamas when he went on tour with well-known environmentalist Bill McKibben last month. The tour’s aim was to get Obama to “put solar back on it.”

President Jimmy Carter outfitted the White House with hydrothermal panels for hot water heating in 1973. Ronald Reagan later removed them.

Obama’s White House will feature both photovoltaic panels and hydrothermal ones, according to Chu’s announcement.

"Around the world, the White House is a symbol of freedom and democracy," Chu said in an announcement made to Federal employees today. "It should also be a symbol of America's commitment to a clean energy future."

Kennedy said he’s pleased about the Obama administration’s decision to move forward with solar panels even if they aren’t taking him up on his offer to donate them.

“We were really pushing it for the good of the industry,” Kennedy said. “This going to make a big statement.”

He said that having solar panels on the White House roof will speak to the technology’s accessibility to regular people. It also sets an example Kennedy hopes other Americans will follow.

He noted again that seed sales went up 30 percent when the Obamas planted a back-yard garden.

“We hope people will be inspired by this and choose to install on their own homes,” Kennedy said.

He said he believes the president’s decision to install PV panels will almost certainly be good for the solar industry.

Chu’s announcement kicks off a week of discussions about energy sustainability in the Federal government. Federal employees will be brainstorming and hearing from industry experts this week about how to reduce energy use.

The solar system at the White House should be online by next spring. Bids for the project start immediately, according to Chu’s announcement.

Kennedy said Sungevity will be bidding on the project.

“District of Columbia, here we come,” he said.

Picture courtesy of Whtehouse.gov