For a president that continuously touts clean jobs and solar power, it’s odd that President Obama hasn’t used one of the most famous houses in the world – his 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue address – to lead by example. Yesterday, however, word arrived that the White House will be installing solar panels by spring of 2011 to heat water and provide electricity. On a day where the New York Times led off its morning news coverage with a story about how the military is mandating less dependence on fossil fuels, the announcement of solar power coming to the White House is one more sign that the nation is heading in the right direction. Granted, President Jimmy Carter installed a solar water heater back in the 1970′s. George W. Bush also installed solar power in the maintenance buildings, parts of the mansion, and heated the pool with the sun’s energy Let’s hope this time the panels stay and the country is more willingly to take inspiration from the action.
The announcement by Sec. Steven Chu and Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Nancy Sutley said that “the PV system will convert sunlight directly to electricity. The solar hot water heater will have a solar collector facing the sun that will heat water for use in the White House Residence.” According to estimates found in this AP story, administration officials “expect the photovoltaic system will include between 25 to 75 panels and will convert sunlight into 19,700 kilowatt hours of electricity a year. That would save a typical household $2,300 on its electricity bill, based on commercial rates in Washington. The solar hot water heating system…could save an additional $1,000 a year.” If the house were outfitted with money from Obama’s own pocket, the costs would be around $100,000 according to the same article (not sure if that includes rebates/incentives). Savings from cheaper electric bills would earn back the initial investment in 5 years.
I can’t help but feel that the second green revolution we are always talking about on this site – that change to greener, cleaner energy and more sustainable practices – is indeed occurring. It’s not going to be a rapid, hyper-intense change like a coup d’etat or stock market boom or bust where fortunes are made and wiped-out over night. But, the changes to our relationship and interaction with energy will be radical. For every set back like the cacophonous Sunchips bag, there are numerous positive developments taking place: efficient faucets that run on their own hydro-power; devices that change plastic back into oil; smartly redesigned pizza boxes; changes in mindset and lifestyle when it comes to transportation. These all point to a gathering momentum for real change in energy economics.
The first day this website went live, I half-flippantly wrote that we were on the cusp of a revolution: “If you listen oh so carefully, you may be able to hear it. That’s the revolution. And it’s growing louder.” We took our name based on the notion that the “technological transformation of energy production, distribution, and consumption to green, clean, and sustainable methods taking place in the first half of the 21st century” was indeed revolutionary and would have just as much if not more influence on society as the first green revolution (in agriculture) did.
Whether you can hear it yet or not, the crescendo is building.
Thanks for Gina for the tip.