Obama said in 2010 that he would
retrofit his family's new home with solar panels starting in 2011, then use
the power generated to heat water for the first family and provide some
electricity. But the project remained dark until late 2013, when the
installation finally started.
Obama wants to use his personal
example to spur families and businesses to do more to reduce reliance on
foreign energy and cut emissions blamed for global warming. "Solar panels at
the White House are a really important message that solar is here, we are
doing it, we can do a lot more," Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a
video released by the White House.
"Being at the White House, we do have
some security concerns. We can't cover the entire roof, although that would
be good from an energy savings standpoint," said James Doherty, the White
For some climate change activists, the
years of delay underscored a lack of urgency. Bill McKibben of the
environmental group 350.org said the project was symbolically significant,
but also depressingly protracted.
"At this pace, we'll solve global
warming right about the time that we're 30 feet under water," McKibben said
in an interview.
Obama isn't the first president to
deploy solar at the White House. President Jimmy Carter spent $30,000 on a
solar water-heating system for West Wing offices in the late 1970s, but his
successor, Ronald Reagan, tossed the panels after he moved in. President
George W. Bush's solar systems powered a maintenance building and some of
the mansion, plus provided heated water for the pool.