Will Solar Panels Ever Grace the White House Roof?

Lucas Hamilton

A firestorm has once again formed around the White House.  This time it is regarding solar roofing panels. You could say it is a wonderful example of where bureaucracy meets reality.  Bill McKibben an author, educator and founder of 350.org, a global organization focused on climate change journeyed to Washington, D.C. to ask President Obama to reinstall solar panels that Jimmy Carter had installed on the White House roof while serving as President.  The White House declined.

I am not advocating that the President uses 30-year-old solar panels on the White House, but the mission was a noble one. As a building scientist and alternative energy supporter representing a company that is investing in the research and development of solar roofing products, I do feel that considering solar panels on the White House would be a strong statement in support of solar technology. It would provide encouragement and serve as an example for all Americans. Even if it were a part of the White House roof, it would send the right message.

The move to alternative energy sources is generating jobs, helping us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and lowering carbon emissions responsible for global warming.

The Department of Energy is very focused on addressing the issues of climate, reducing carbon emissions, research and development of alternative energy sources  and supporting programs like the Solar Decathlon, which promotes solar power and sustainable, energy efficient construction. But is this too passive a statement of support for solar?

The White House, a significant and very visible symbol of America, would be the perfect place to harness the power of sun.

McKibben, was a guest on David Letterman on September 1, talking about the White House trip, climate change and his October 10, 2010 event Work Party for Energy.

 Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

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  • I have to admit, my first thought while reading through your article was, “yeah… but it’s the White House..” envisioning huge solar panels distracting away from the visual appeal of a national monument. But in all reality, they wouldn’t even be seen, so why wouldn’t they?

    As you said, perhaps not replace the old solar panels, but why not opt for new ones? As a symbol of the American way of life, solar panels on the White House roof would show the government’s dedication toward a energy sustainable future.

    And besides they could receive a $1,500 Energy Star Tax Credit from the IRS.:) But perhaps, administration doesn’t feel that it is in this year’s budget.