iA


Duurzame energieopwekking

  •  Credits for EDEOS (digital education, Berlin)

Heeft u het gevoel dat uw bedrijf nog onvoldoende is geïnformeerd, voorbereid of visie heeft omgezet in plannen en projecten?

Met onze ervaring kunt u -binnen een door u gekozen doel en budget-  beschikken over een adequaat besluit, plan of project dat u één of meer stappen vooruit helpt met één -bij uw bedrijf passende- energiebron of energiedrager:

  • Zon
  • Geo
  • Wind
  • Water
  • Bio
  • Mens
  • Dier

Nieuwsgierigheid én daadkracht heeft mij steeds voldoende inspiratie gegeven voor eigen keuzes op dat terrein.  Als particulier kan je best leuke dingen doen, zoals ik vanaf 1997 in eigen woning ook steeds stapjes heb gezet. Wilt u weten waarmee ik begon? Neem een kijkje in mijn

Woning

Zonne-energie is bij uitstek geschikt als politiek statement, en heeft een rijke historie vanwege de zichtbaarheid. In verband met het verwijderen door premier Kok van de -door Greenpeace aangeboden en geinstalleerde zonnepanelen op de werkkamer van de Nederlandse premier, en herinstallatie door mij op het torentje op mijn woning in 2000, heb ik het verhaal van het plaatsen en weer verwijderen van zonnepanelen op het Witte Huis onderzocht.

In veel landen wordt de president of premier uitgedaagd om te laten zien waar hij/zij staat. Het dak van de regeringsleider is bij uistek een signaal naar de maatschappij. 
Hieronder kunt u de eerste toepassingen van zonne-energie op het dak van het Witte Huis (Verenigde Staten) lezen. Dit is vanwege de beschrijving door verschillende Amerikaanse auteurs in de engelse (am.) taal gedaan.

  1. A Brief History of White House Solar Panels (Source: Tom Murse, US Government Expert. President Barack Obama’s decision in 2010 to install White House solar panels made environmentalists happy. But he wasn’t the first president to take advantage of alternative forms of energy in the living quarters at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The first solar panels were placed on the White House more than 30 years earlier, but abruptly yanked down -with little explanation- nearly two decades later. What happened to the original White House solar panels? Here’s a look back at a strange saga spanning six presidential administrations.

Carter – Photo

1979: President Jimmy Carter Installs 1st White House Solar Panels
President Jimmy Carter installed 32 solar (thermal) panels on the presidential mansion amid the Arab oil embargo, which had caused a national energy crisis. The Democratic president called for a campaign to safe energy and, to set an example to the American people, ordered the solar panels and erected these in 1979, according to the White House Historical Association.
Carter predicted that “a generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people; harnessing the power of the Sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.”


1981 – President Ronald Reagan Orders Solar Panels on the White House Removed. President Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, and one of his first moves was to order the solar panels be removed. It was clear Reagan had a completely different take on energy consumption. “Reagan’s political philosophy viewed the free market as the best arbiter of what was good for the country. Corporate self-interest, he felt, would steer the country in the right direction,” the author -Natalie Goldstein- wrote in “Global Warming.” George Charles Szego, the engineer who persuaded Carter to install the solar panels, reportedly claimed that Reagan Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan “felt that the equipment was just a joke, and he had it taken down.” The panels were removed in 1986 when work was being done on the White House roof below the panels.

2010 – President Barack Obama Orders Solar Panels Reinstalled on White House
President Barack Obama, who made environmental issues a focus of his presidency, planned to install photovoltaic solar panels on the White House by spring of 2011. He also announced he will also install a solar hot water heater on top of the living quarters at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
“By installing solar panels on arguably the most famous house in the country, his residence, the president is underscoring that commitment to lead and the promise and importance of renewable energy in the United States,” said Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Administration officials said they expected the photovoltaic system will convert sunlight into 19,700 kilowatt hours of electricity a year.

—— 2008 — “remember Szego”

1992: White House Solar Panels Moved to Maine College.
Half of the solar panels that once generated energy at the White House were installed on the roof of the cafeteria at Maine’s Unity College, according to Scientific American. The panels were used to warm water in summer and winter.


“SOLAR ENERGY ADVOCATE SZEGO DIES AT 88”
By JOE HOLLEY , The Washington Post
POSTED: 05/15/08, 12:01 AM PDT | UPDATED: ON 05/15/2008
George Charles Szego, a chemical engineer who founded a pioneering solar technology company and persuaded former President Jimmy Carter to install solar collectors on the roof of the White House, died April 23 of cardiac arrest at Kent General Hospital in Dover, Del. He was 88.
Szego “has a tendency to end up on science’s most popular frontiers,” The Washington Post noted in 1977. A decade earlier, as America prepared to land a man on the moon, he prepared studies on internal combustion engines, fuel cells and space-age propulsion systems for the Institute for Defense Analyses.
“I was known as Mr. Space Power,” he told The Post.
In 1970, he founded InterTechnology/Solar Corp., hoping to capitalize on America’s budding curiosity about solar energy and other alternatives to fossil fuel. The company’s headquarters was a converted Safeway store in Warrenton, Va., and by the late 1970s, ITC/Solar was competing with General Electric, Honeywell and other industry leaders for government research contracts.
“Technicians from giant energy companies often make the trip to Warrenton to sit at his feet,” Forbes Magazine said in 1978.
At the time of the Forbes article, Szego’s company had exclusive rights to a system for generating electrical power through osmotic pressure, a process that relies on forcing liquid through a semi- permeable membrane. The potential market, he told Forbes, could be $1 trillion.
His company manufactured plates used in solar panels and solar-powered hot water heaters. Szego also saw promise in what would come to be called biofuel, and he traveled around the world promoting the use of marginal land to grow a special breed of plant that could be used to power boilers.
In 1979, ITC/Solar received a $28,000 contract to install 32 solar thermal collectors on the roof of the West Wing of the White House, and the president inaugurated the solar hot water system June 20 of that year. Szego told Energy Design Update years later that the equipment performed well.
“The collectors were cranking out hot water a mile a minute,” he said.
The collectors were removed in 1986 to repair a roof leak and were never reinstalled. White House Chief of Staff Donald Regan “felt that the equipment was just a joke,” Szego recalled, “and he had it taken down.”
George Charles Szego was born in Budapest and was 2 when his political emigre parents brought him to the United States. After graduating from Brooklyn Technical High School, he enrolled at City College of New York.
A child of the Depression, he ran out of money after two years at CCNY and took a job in a plant in Sheridan, Wyo., that recovered non-ferrous metals. The job was supposed to be a brief hiatus from higher education, but the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor altered his plans.
After enlisting in the Army, he was sent to Camp Sibert, Ala., for chemical warfare training, but when Army brass realized he was fluent in Hungarian and German, he was transferred to the Army Intelligence Center at Camp Ritchie, Md.
Szego, then a sergeant, landed at Omaha Beach in June 1944, a few weeks after D-Day, and he fought in the Battle of the Bulge. During combat operations, he led an intelligence detachment that captured teams of Nazis impersonating GIs. Driving stolen Jeeps and wearing U.S. uniforms, the Germans were bent on assassinating high-ranking American officers.
Before the Nuremberg trials, Szego interrogated a number of captured Nazis at Oberursel, including Hermann Goering. The Luftwaffe commander, Szego recalled, was “a mere shadow of his former 320-pound self.”
Returning to civilian life, he received a bachelor’s degree in 1947 from the University of Denver. He received a master’s degree in 1950 and a doctorate in 1956, both in chemical engineering from the University of Washington. He worked for General Electric, TRW Space Technology Laboratories and the Institute for Defense Analyses before founding ITC/Solar.
From 1972 to 1981, Szego and his first wife — along with a number of foster children — lived at Oakwood, an 18th-century estate in Fauquier County, Va., once owned by Abraham Lincoln’s private physician and where both Lincoln and Edgar Allan Poe slept. Szego raised purebred horses and cattle on the 435-acre property and built a solar-heated swimming pool with 10 collectors.
Szego lived in Annapolis, Md., from 1982 to 2006, when he moved to Delaware.
ITC/Solar began experiencing financial difficulties in 1978 and went out of business in 1988. Szego continued to write, teach and lecture on the peril of global warming, the importance of energy conservation and the promise of solar power. He also taught chemical engineering at Howard University.
His marriage to Marion “Meg” Gowell Szego ended in divorce. A daughter from that marriage, Alexandra Windpainter, died in 2006.
Survivors include his wife of 18 years, Diane Jones Szego of Dover; a sister; a granddaughter; and a great-granddaughter.

——2011 —— Nancy Pelosi ——
POSTED ON JANUARY 3, 2011 BY OSHA GRAY DAVIDSON
THE CHALLENGE ISN’T GOING AWAY: CLEAN ENERGY, JOBS AND NATIONAL SECURITY
Vice-Admiral Dennis McGinn testifying before the Select Committee, December 10, 2010
In April, 2007, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi created a congressional committee to address three of the most pressing issues of the day: climate change, economic prosperity (in the form of jobs), and national security. Today, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, issued a final report. After three-and-a-half years, 80 hearings and briefings with hundreds of experts testifying, the committee is no more. It will not continue in the Republican- controlled House.
Which is too bad, because the three challenges — climate change, jobs, national security — remain as daunting today as they were in 2007. In many ways, the problems have grown over time.
Since the committee was first gavelled into session, American’s have spent $1.3 trillion on imported oil. Our jobless rate was 4.6 percent in 2007; in December, that figure stood at 9.8 percent. And the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has gone from 385 to 388.59 parts per million in these three plus years.
The committee report on this nexus should be required reading for all Americans — particularly those individuals convening in the nation’s capitol this week, as part of the 112th Congress.
Final Report, Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming –

POSTED IN ALL, CO2, DOWNLOADS, FOSSIL FUELS, INTL., LAWS, RENEWABLES, SOLAR, WIND |TAGGEDCO2,JOBS,NATIONALSECURITY,OIL |
POSTED ON OCTOBER 5, 2010 BY OSHA GRAY DAVIDSON
THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE GOES SOLAR
Energy Sec Steven Chu & CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley announcing White House plan to “go
solar” (Photo: William Atkins, the George Washington University)
The Obama administration has announced plans to install solar panels on the White House. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Council of Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley made the announcement this morning during a federally-sponsored GreenGov Symposium at George Washington University.
The White House solar array should be in place by next spring and will included both solar PV panels to generate electricity and a solar hot water heater on the White House Residence.
“By installing solar panels on arguably the most famous house in the country, his residence, the President is underscoring that commitment to lead and the promise and importance of renewable energy in the United States.”
— Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair, Nancy Sutley, 5 October 2010
The announcement comes after a two-year campaign by renewable energy advocates concerned about climate change, urging Obama to install solar power on the White House. Most recently, author Bill McKibben made the journey to the 1600 Pennsylvania Ave with a solar hot water panel that President Jimmy Carter had installed on the presidential roof in June 1979. (The White House was non-committal about accepting the panel at the time.) While solar PV panels were (quietly) installed during the George W. Bush years, they were placed on a maintenance shed — not on the mansion itself. When the PV panels go up in the spring, it will be the first time the White House itself will generate electricity from rooftop panels.
Members of McKibben’s group ‘350’ urge Obama to go solar
McKibben was exuberant about the news this morning. He called the panels “a powerful symbol to the whole nation about where the future lies,” adding that “the president will wake up every morning and make his toast by the power of the sun (do presidents make toast?), which will be a constant reminder to be pushing the Congress for the kind of comprehensive reform we need.”
McKibben is the author of The End of Nature, one of the first popular books about global warming, and founder of the international group, 350.
The announcement also drew praise from the solar power industry.
“Putting solar on the roof of the nation’s most important home is a powerful symbol calling on all Americans to rethink how we create energy,” said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) in a statement. “It’s an example of how each one of us can improve energy security, employ Americans and cut energy costs. I can speak from personal experience that taxpayers will benefit. In the four years since I’ve had solar on my house, I’ve gotten a better return on my solar system than on my 401(k).”
Like McKibben, Resch advocated solar power for the First Home on a visit there this year.
At a Rose Garden event commemorating Earth Day in April, Resch “point[ed] out to the President the large amount of available roof space on top of the White House, baking in the sun.”
President Obama at Florida solar plant opening
At today’s announcement, Secretary Chu stressed the economic benefits of renewable energy.
“This project reflects President Obama’s strong commitment to U.S. leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home,” he said. “Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come.”
Chu was repeating a theme highlighted by the president in his weekly radio address last Saturday:
“Over the past twenty months, we’ve been fighting not just to create more jobs today, but to rebuild our economy on a stronger foundation. Our future as a nation depends on making sure that the jobs and industries of the 21st century take root here in America. And there is perhaps no industry with more potential to create jobs now – and growth in the coming years – than clean energy.”
Today’s announcement is the latest installment in a solar story set at the White House, a tale in which symbolism has usually conformed with reality.



POSTED IN ALL, CO2, FOSSIL FUELS, RENEWABLES, SOLAR | TAGGED BILL MCKIBBEN, CEQ, CLEAN ENERGY, DOE, GREENGOV, JOBS, PRESIDENT

Where Did the Carter White House’s Solar Panels Go?
One of the 32 solar-thermal panels that captured energy on the roof of the White House more than 30 years ago landed this week at a science museum in China
By David Biello | August 6, 2010
carter-white-house-solar-panels
The White House itself once harvested the power of the sun. On June 20, 1979, the Carter administration installed 32 panels designed to harvest the sun’s rays and use them to heat water.
Here is what Carter predicted at the dedication ceremony: “In the year 2000 this solar water heater behind me, which is being dedicated today, will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy…. A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.”
For some of the solar panels it is the former that has
come to pass: one resides at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, one at the Carter Library and, as of this week, one will join the collection of the Solar Science and Technology Museum in Dezhou, China. Huang Ming, chairman of Himin Solar Energy Group Co., the largest manufacturer of such solar hot water heaters in the world, accepted the donation for permanent display there on August 5. After all, companies like his in China now produce some 80 percent of the solar water heaters used in the world today.
But they are based on the same technology developed here in the U.S. and once manufactured in Warrentown, Va., by InterTechnology/Solar Corp., the company behind the Carter panels.* Roughly three meters long, one meter wide and just 10 centimeters deep, the blue-black panels absorb sunlight to heat water piped through their innards. The Carter administration set a goal of deriving 20 percent of U.S. energy needs from such renewable sources by the turn of the century. Today, the U.S. gets a mere 7 percent of its energy from renewables, the bulk of that from the massive hydroelectric dams constructed in the middle of the 20th century. Solar thermal and photovoltaic technology combined provide less than 0.1 percent.
By 1986, the Reagan administration had gutted the research and development budgets for renewable energy at the then-fledgling U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) and eliminated tax breaks for the deployment of wind turbines and solar technologies—recommitting the nation to reliance on cheap but polluting fossil fuels, often from foreign suppliers. “The Department of Energy has a multibillion-dollar budget, in excess of $10 billion,” Reagan said during an election debate with Carter, justifying his opposition to the latter’s energy policies. “It hasn’t produced a quart of oil or a lump of coal or anything else in the line of energy.”
And in 1986 the Reagan administration quietly dismantled the White House solar panel installation while resurfacing the roof. “Hey! That system is working. Why don’t you keep it?” recalls mechanical engineer Fred Morse, now of Abengoa Solar, who helped install the original solar panels as director of the solar energy program during the Carter years and then watched as they were dismantled during his tenure in the same job under Reagan. “Hey! This whole [renewable] R&D program is working, why don’t you keep it?” After they came down it took a soft-spoken administrator from a small environmental college in Maine to rescue the Carter panels from being a forgotten curiosity stored in the dark corner of a vast government warehouse.
A long, strange trip
In 1991 Peter Marbach was newly minted development director at Unity College in Maine, which was facing a severe budget crisis. Marbach needed to find a way to bring attention—and hopefully donations—to the struggling college and its mission: environmental education. Leafing through a magazine, he stumbled across a picture. “There was this photograph of the solar panels, but they were all sort of disheveled and sort of tossed in a corner in this government service warehouse in Franconia, Virginia,” he recalls. “It was just such a waste.”
Marbach, lithe from years of mountain climbing and other outdoor pursuits, seems slow to anger, but his eyes, crinkled at the edges from years of smiling, still flash when asked to recollect what inspired his rescue mission. Yet he doesn’t sound angry, so much as bemused. “It was in that instant where I was just so filled with anger and disappointment that: How could this happen?” he says. “Wouldn’t it be something if I could somehow find a way to get these panels and resurrect them?”
Marbach wrote to former President Carter, who wrote back: “It would please me very much to see those panels in use again.” He also enlisted the aid of Maine’s former U.S. senator, William Cohen. Armed with Carter’s letter and Cohen’s support he contacted the General Services Administration —the independent government agency that is landlord to other government agencies and generally runs the physical stuff of government. The GSA determined Unity was eligible as an institution of higher learning to take the panels for an administrative fee of $500.
The panels weighed more than 45 kilograms each and there were 32 of them. Marbach just had a battered, blue school bus that was mostly used to carry the school soccer team to away games nearby. “The soccer coach was giving me a hard time,” Marbach chuckles as he remembers. “He said, ‘You realize that if you take that bus and drive it down there I have no excuse to ask the administration to get us a new bus because that will prove the bus can go that far.'”
Marbach pressed on, stripping the seats out of the bus to make room for his cargo and enduring a bumpy and loud trip down the eastern seaboard. Once in Virginia, he pulled up to the grounds of a federal warehouse he describes as much like the fictional one used to store the Ark of the Covenant in the first Indiana Jones movie, “just bigger” and stacked with unused furniture and crates of office supplies rather than mysterious archaeological artifacts. A golf cart and an attendant drove Marbach through the cavernous space, where he found the solar panels in a dim corner gathering dust instead of sunlight. Some were broken. “It just looked like there was not a lot of thought given to taking care of these things,” Marbach says.
A new dawn?
There was a lot of thought given to installing the 32 solar panels in the first place, not least because the system could not alter the look or profile of the White House in any way. In fact, Morse, who first got involved with solar during the Nixon administration by being asked to assess its potential, spent years determining what could be installed. Ultimately, he had to make parts of the panels white, rather than a darker (more sunlight-absorbent) color. On June 30, 1979, the panels were unveiled, although they remained invisible from the ground.
“It was the oil shock that pretty much caused the government to take a very serious look at its domestic solar resource,” recalls Abengoa’s Morse, who has spent decades aiding and abetting the still fledgling solar thermal industry both in government and out. “The motivation was energy independence,” a motive that remains recognizable in political rhetoric today because, as Carter himself put it, the sun cannot be embargoed, referring to the 1973–74 Arab oil embargo. “We have this big solar resource, we should use it,” Morse explains. SEE ALSO:
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Carter was the first president to take that idea seriously, warming the reviewing stand for his inauguration on January 20, 1977 with the sun’s heat harvested by roughly 1,000 square meters of solar thermal panels, according to Morse. “President Carter saw [solar] as a really valid energy resource, and he understood it. I mean, it is a domestic resource and it is huge,” Morse recalls, although he admits the inaugural solar system left some chilly. “It was the symbolism of the president wanting to bring solar energy immediately into his administration.”
That symbolism became more concrete in the form of a vastly increased budget for energy technology research and development (pdf)—levels still unmatched by succeeding administrations —and tax credits for installing wind turbines or solar power that caused a first boom in renewable energy installation. In a sense alternative energy was finally getting the same government support used to develop and maintain other energy technologies, such as oil drilling or nuclear power. “It did not take long for the U.S. government to realize that energy was a great national interest and subsidize it,” Morse notes.
But the real symbolism was the Carter family using hot water heated by the sun for some of their daily activities. “It was used for the cafeteria, in the laundry and other parts of the White House,” Morse says.
That was symbolism that Morse suggests the Reagan administration did not support as wholeheartedly. “We had a new administration that really did not like renewables very much. I don’t know if you remember those days when it was called alternative energy and there was something about ‘alternative’ that did not sit very well.” So when the time came to resurface the roof, the panels were taken down. “It was working fine, but the decision was it was not cost-effective.”
Where they ended up Morse still has no idea.
Driving the future
In fact, since 1992 16 of the 32 solar panels have been on the Unity College cafeteria roof, located just 15 minutes from the often overcast coast of Maine, warming water in summer and winter. The rest went back into storage, too big to fit in an area that is much smaller than the White House roof. Once Marbach arrived back at the college, donations flooded in to help refurbish and install them, including a gift of $150,000 worth of pre–Mobil merger Exxon stock, money from actress Glenn Close and a mention by Al Gore during a campaign stop in Maine that year.
“From around the country, we just got lots of letters, phone calls of support, and it just sort of restarted the whole conversation about alternative energy,” Marbach recalls. “Imagine where we would be today if those panels were left there, if the Reagan administration had continued the funding.”
Instead, it is countries such as Germany and Japan that have taken the lead as far as developing and deploying solar photovoltaics, whereas Italy and Spain now dominate solar-thermal technology, as evidenced by Morse’s employment at a Spain-based solar company building power plants in Arizona. “We look[ed] for the bright red spots of high [solar] intensity [in the satellite data] and then we carefully searched for a farmer who wanted to sell his land,” Morse says of the Solana concentrating solar-power plant, currently under construction southwest of Phoenix. “What is nice about a farm is that it is previously disturbed land…and we will use less than 20 percent of what the farmer used for water.” And it is China that has taken the lead when it comes to using the sun to heat hot water for daily use, installing roughly two thirds of total global capacity. “In the U.S. everyone already has a hot water system heated by natural gas, oil or electricity,” explains physicist C. Julian Chen of Columbia University, who helped arrange the donation of the Carter panel to the Chinese people. “More than 80 percent of Chinese people do not have hot water; they need it. If you start from scratch, the solar water heater is cheaper.”
That has made companies like Himin very successful and has cut energy use in cities such as Rizhao—attempting to become carbon neutral—by a third. And Himin’s Huang helped author a 2005 Chinese law that calls for 10 percent of Chinese energy to come from renewable resources by 2020—reminiscent of the policies laid out by Carter in a speech on April 18, 1977. Already, China derives nearly 10 percent of its energy from renewable resources, primarily hydropower such as the Three Gorges Dam, although it led the world in installing wind turbines in 2009.
In the U.S. some activists have called on the Obama administration to bring solar back to the White House roof—and solar company Sungevity has offered to install 102 of its photovoltaic panels for free. “I think Barack Obama knows this problem, and he tries to correct that historical mistake,” Chen says. “He appointed Steven Chu as energy secretary, and Steven Chu is a well-known supporter of renewable energy.”
Of course, solar panels back atop the White House remain merely a symbolic step toward renewable energy. Already, certain buildings on the grounds of the federal landmark employ solar power, courtesy of the National Park Service and President George W. Bush. Yet, the U.S. invests only $5 billion yearly on energy research and development at present—roughly one seventh what China spent last year—and private industry has never filled the gap. And it would take producing roughly a square meter of photovoltaic panels or the mirrors for a solar thermal system every few seconds for the next 40 years to harvest one terawatt of energy from the sun by 2050—using present technologies—according to engineer Saul Griffith of Other Lab in San Francisco. The U.S. presently uses almost four terawatts of energy a year.
In fact, heating hot water alone accounts for 17 percent of U.S. energy use, according to the DoE. Carter’s panels no longer cut into Unity’s energy budget; the panels operations were shut down in 2005 and the college has donated three to various institutions since 2007, one at time—and plans more donations in future. “We are discussing seriously within our community what the long-term disposition of those panels will be,” says Mark Tardif, a spokesman for Unity College. For the moment, most still sit on the cafeteria roof. “They are probably going to come down from that location, probably by the end of summer.”
Regardless of their ultimate fate, it took the pluck and initiative of one man to rescue the Carter White House solar panels from the dustbin of political and ecological history. “There was a lot of sweat, a lot of dirt, a lot of struggle, but still just to have your hands on a piece of history and to know that, okay, these things are not going to be just a relic,” Marbach recalls. “We were actually going to be able to resurrect them.”
And those solar-thermal collectors also symbolize an alternative history. “We certainly didn’t address the oil and energy issues going back to when Carter tried,” Tardif says. “Maybe it would be different if Americans understood what actually happened. We were poised to achieve 20 percent renewables by 2000. What happened?”
*Correction (8/6/10): This sentence was edited after posting. It originally stated that the White House solar panels were manufactured by Heliodyne Solar Hot Water.
Editor’s Note: David Biello is the host of a forthcoming series on PBS, titled Beyond the Light Switch. The series will explore the coming transformation of how we use and produce electricity, along with its impact on the environment, national security and the economy. He conducted the interviews for this article in conjunction with his work on that series.

1979 – President Jimmy Carter Installs 1st White House Solar Panels
President Jimmy Carter installed 32 solar (thermal) panels on the presidential mansion amid the Arab oil embargo, which had caused a national energy crisis. The Democratic president called for a campaign to safe energy and, to set an example to the American people, ordered the solar panels and erected these in 1979, according to the White House Historical Association.
Carter predicted that “a generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people; harnessing the power of the Sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.”

1981 – President Ronald Reagan Orders Solar Panels on the White House Removed.
President Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, and one of his first moves was to order the solar panels be removed. It was clear Reagan had a completely different take on energy consumption. “Reagan’s political philosophy viewed the free market as the best arbiter of what was good for the country. Corporate self-interest, he felt, would steer the country in the right direction,” the author -Natalie Goldstein- wrote in “Global Warming.”
George Charles Szego, the engineer who persuaded Carter to install the solar panels, reportedly claimed that Reagan Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan “felt that the equipment was just a joke, and he had it taken down.” The panels were removed in 1986 when work was being done on the White House roof below the panels.

1992 – White House Solar Panels Moved to Maine College
Half of the solar panels that once generated energy at the White House were installed on the roof of the cafeteria at Maine’s Unity College, according to Scientific American. The panels were used to warm water in summer and winter.

2010 – President Barack Obama Orders Solar Panels Reinstalled on White House
President Barack Obama, who made environmental issues a focus of his presidency, planned to install solar panels on the White House by spring of 2011. He also announced he will also install a solar hot water heater on top of the living quarters at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
“By installing solar panels on arguably the most famous house in the country, his residence, the president is underscoring that commitment to lead and the promise and importance of renewable energy in the United States,” said Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Administration officials said they expected the photovoltaic system will convert sunlight into 19,700 kilowatt hours of electricity a year.

SOLAR ENERGY ADVOCATE SZEGO DIES AT 88
By JOE HOLLEY , The Washington Post
POSTED: 05/15/08, 12:01 AM PDT | UPDATED: ON 05/15/2008 # COMMENTS
George Charles Szego, a chemical engineer who founded a pioneering solar technology company and persuaded former President Jimmy Carter to install solar collectors on the roof of the White House, died April 23 of cardiac arrest at Kent General Hospital in Dover, Del. He was 88.
Szego “has a tendency to end up on science’s most popular frontiers,” The Washington Post noted in 1977. A decade earlier, as America prepared to land a man on the moon, he prepared studies on internal combustion engines, fuel cells and space-age propulsion systems for the Institute for Defense Analyses.
“I was known as Mr. Space Power,” he told The Post.
In 1970, he founded InterTechnology/Solar Corp., hoping to capitalize on America’s budding curiosity about solar energy and other alternatives to fossil fuel. The company’s headquarters was a converted Safeway store in Warrenton, Va., and by the late 1970s, ITC/Solar was competing with General Electric, Honeywell and other industry leaders for government research contracts.
“Technicians from giant energy companies often make the trip to Warrenton to sit at his feet,” Forbes Magazine said in 1978.
At the time of the Forbes article, Szego’s company had exclusive rights to a system for generating electrical power through osmotic pressure, a process that relies on forcing liquid through a semi- permeable membrane. The potential market, he told Forbes, could be $1 trillion.
His company manufactured plates used in solar panels and solar-powered hot water heaters. Szego also saw promise in what would come to be called biofuel, and he traveled around the world promoting the use of marginal land to grow a special breed of plant that could be used to power boilers.
In 1979, ITC/Solar received a $28,000 contract to install 32 solar thermal collectors on the roof of the West Wing of the White House, and the president inaugurated the solar hot water system June 20 of that year. Szego told Energy Design Update years later that the equipment performed well.
“The collectors were cranking out hot water a mile a minute,” he said.
The collectors were removed in 1986 to repair a roof leak and were never reinstalled. White House Chief of Staff Donald Regan “felt that the equipment was just a joke,” Szego recalled, “and he had it taken down.”
George Charles Szego was born in Budapest and was 2 when his political emigre parents brought him to the United States. After graduating from Brooklyn Technical High School, he enrolled at City College of New York.
A child of the Depression, he ran out of money after two years at CCNY and took a job in a plant in Sheridan, Wyo., that recovered non-ferrous metals. The job was supposed to be a brief hiatus from higher education, but the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor altered his plans.
After enlisting in the Army, he was sent to Camp Sibert, Ala., for chemical warfare training, but when Army brass realized he was fluent in Hungarian and German, he was transferred to the Army Intelligence Center at Camp Ritchie, Md.
Szego, then a sergeant, landed at Omaha Beach in June 1944, a few weeks after D-Day, and he fought in the Battle of the Bulge. During combat operations, he led an intelligence detachment that captured teams of Nazis impersonating GIs. Driving stolen Jeeps and wearing U.S. uniforms, the Germans were bent on assassinating high-ranking American officers.
Before the Nuremberg trials, Szego interrogated a number of captured Nazis at Oberursel, including Hermann Goering. The Luftwaffe commander, Szego recalled, was “a mere shadow of his former 320-pound self.”
Returning to civilian life, he received a bachelor’s degree in 1947 from the University of Denver. He received a master’s degree in 1950 and a doctorate in 1956, both in chemical engineering from the University of Washington. He worked for General Electric, TRW Space Technology Laboratories and the Institute for Defense Analyses before founding ITC/Solar.
From 1972 to 1981, Szego and his first wife — along with a number of foster children — lived at Oakwood, an 18th-century estate in Fauquier County, Va., once owned by Abraham Lincoln’s private physician and where both Lincoln and Edgar Allan Poe slept. Szego raised purebred horses and cattle on the 435-acre property and built a solar-heated swimming pool with 10 collectors.
Szego lived in Annapolis, Md., from 1982 to 2006, when he moved to Delaware.
ITC/Solar began experiencing financial difficulties in 1978 and went out of business in 1988. Szego continued to write, teach and lecture on the peril of global warming, the importance of energy conservation and the promise of solar power. He also taught chemical engineering at Howard University.
His marriage to Marion “Meg” Gowell Szego ended in divorce. A daughter from that marriage, Alexandra Windpainter, died in 2006.
Survivors include his wife of 18 years, Diane Jones Szego of Dover; a sister; a granddaughter; and a great-granddaughter. ==========
POSTED ON JANUARY 3, 2011 BY OSHA GRAY DAVIDSON
THE CHALLENGE ISN’T GOING AWAY: CLEAN ENERGY, JOBS AND NATIONAL SECURITY
Vice-Admiral Dennis McGinn testifying before the Select Committee, December 10, 2010
In April, 2007, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi created a congressional committee to address three of the most pressing issues of the day: climate change, economic prosperity (in the form of jobs), and national security. Today, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, issued a final report. After three-and-a-half years, 80 hearings and briefings with hundreds of experts testifying, the committee is no more. It will not continue in the Republican- controlled House.
Which is too bad, because the three challenges — climate change, jobs, national security — remain as daunting today as they were in 2007. In many ways, the problems have grown over time.
Since the committee was first gavelled into session, American’s have spent $1.3 trillion on imported oil. Our jobless rate was 4.6 percent in 2007; in December, that figure stood at 9.8 percent. And the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has gone from 385 to 388.59 parts per million in these three plus years.
The committee report on this nexus should be required reading for all Americans — particularly those individuals convening in the nation’s capitol this week, as part of the 112th Congress.
Final Report, Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming –

POSTED IN ALL, CO2, DOWNLOADS, FOSSIL FUELS, INTL., LAWS, RENEWABLES, SOLAR, WIND |TAGGEDCO2,JOBS,NATIONALSECURITY,OIL |
POSTED ON OCTOBER 5, 2010 BY OSHA GRAY DAVIDSON
THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE GOES SOLAR
Energy Sec Steven Chu & CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley announcing White House plan to “go
solar” (Photo: William Atkins, the George Washington University)
The Obama administration has announced plans to install solar panels on the White House. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Council of Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley made the announcement this morning during a federally-sponsored GreenGov Symposium at George Washington University.
The White House solar array should be in place by next spring and will included both solar PV panels to generate electricity and a solar hot water heater on the White House Residence.
“By installing solar panels on arguably the most famous house in the country, his residence, the President is underscoring that commitment to lead and the promise and importance of renewable energy in the United States.”
— Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair, Nancy Sutley, 5 October 2010
The announcement comes after a two-year campaign by renewable energy advocates concerned about climate change, urging Obama to install solar power on the White House. Most recently, author Bill McKibben made the journey to the 1600 Pennsylvania Ave with a solar hot water panel that President Jimmy Carter had installed on the presidential roof in June 1979. (The White House was non-committal about accepting the panel at the time.) While solar PV panels were (quietly) installed during the George W. Bush years, they were placed on a maintenance shed — not on the mansion itself. When the PV panels go up in the spring, it will be the first time the White House itself will generate electricity from rooftop panels.
Members of McKibben’s group ‘350’ urge Obama to go solar
McKibben was exuberant about the news this morning. He called the panels “a powerful symbol to the whole nation about where the future lies,” adding that “the president will wake up every morning and make his toast by the power of the sun (do presidents make toast?), which will be a constant reminder to be pushing the Congress for the kind of comprehensive reform we need.”
McKibben is the author of The End of Nature, one of the first popular books about global warming, and founder of the international group, 350.
The announcement also drew praise from the solar power industry.
“Putting solar on the roof of the nation’s most important home is a powerful symbol calling on all Americans to rethink how we create energy,” said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) in a statement. “It’s an example of how each one of us can improve energy security, employ Americans and cut energy costs. I can speak from personal experience that taxpayers will benefit. In the four years since I’ve had solar on my house, I’ve gotten a better return on my solar system than on my 401(k).”
Like McKibben, Resch advocated solar power for the First Home on a visit there this year.
At a Rose Garden event commemorating Earth Day in April, Resch “point[ed] out to the President the large amount of available roof space on top of the White House, baking in the sun.”
President Obama at Florida solar plant opening
At today’s announcement, Secretary Chu stressed the economic benefits of renewable energy.
“This project reflects President Obama’s strong commitment to U.S. leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home,” he said. “Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come.”
Chu was repeating a theme highlighted by the president in his weekly radio address last Saturday:
“Over the past twenty months, we’ve been fighting not just to create more jobs today, but to rebuild our economy on a stronger foundation. Our future as a nation depends on making sure that the jobs and industries of the 21st century take root here in America. And there is perhaps no industry with more potential to create jobs now – and growth in the coming years – than clean energy.”
Today’s announcement is the latest installment in a solar story set at the White House, a tale in which symbolism has usually conformed with reality.
President Jimmy Carter unveiled a bank of thirty-two solar hot water (thermal) collectors on the White House roof on June 20, 1979. The move was largely seen as a reaction to the first “oil shock” — when the price of gasoline skyrocketed and caused shortages and long lines at the pump.
George Szego, head of the company that installed the solar collectors, said in a 2006 interview, that “the collectors were cranking out hot water a mile a minute.”
First solar panels being installed on the White House, 1979. The symbolism was matched by a large federal investment in solar R&D through the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI), which was headed by Denis Hayes, the organizer of the first Earth Day. But when Ronald Reagan came into office, the solar panels came down — and funding of SERI was slashed.
“Reagan felt that the equipment was just a joke,” recalled Szego.
Solar power didn’t make a comeback at the White House until the summer of 2002 — and then the George W. Bush administration didn’t go public with the news and it wasn’t reported widely until 2003.
A 9 kW array of some 167 panels were placed on small building tucked away on the White House grounds.
In addition, two hot water systems were added — one on a maintenance shed and one on the White House cabana which sits next to the pool and spa.
The Washington Post, writing seven months after-the-fact, pointed out that to see the panels “you would have to climb to near the top of the adjacent Eisenhower Executive Office Building.”
Now, comes the Obama administration’s announcement, with solar rooftop installations at an all- time high.
Writing in his EnergyBlog this morning, Steven Chu made it clear that the new solar array is meant to be seen — by the widest possible audience:
“Around the world, the White House is a symbol of freedom and democracy. It should also be a symbol of America’s commitment to a clean energy future.”
For information on rebates and incentives for solar and other renewable energy installations, see here.

President Jimmy Carter showing off the new White House solar panels, 1979.
POSTED IN ALL, CO2, FOSSIL FUELS, RENEWABLES, SOLAR | TAGGED BILL MCKIBBEN, CEQ, CLEAN ENERGY, DOE, GREENGOV, JOBS, PRESIDENT OBAMA, PV, SOLAR, SOLAR PANELS, WHITE HOUSE |
POSTED ON OCTOBER 3, 2010 BY OSHA GRAY DAVIDSON
OBAMA RADIO ADDRESS: ‘GOP PLEDGE WOULD SHUT DOWN CLEAN ENERGY JOBS’
October 2, 2010
Radio Address, transcript: Over the past twenty months, we’ve been fighting not just to create more jobs today, but to rebuild our economy on a stronger foundation. Our future as a nation depends on making sure that the jobs and industries of the 21st century take root here in America. And there is perhaps no industry with more potential to create jobs now – and growth in the coming years – than clean energy.
For decades, we’ve talked about the importance of ending our dependence on foreign oil and pursuing new kinds of energy, like wind and solar power. But for just as long, progress had been prevented at every turn by the special interests and their allies in Washington.
So, year after year, our dependence on foreign oil grew. Families have been held hostage to spikes in gas prices. Good manufacturing jobs have gone overseas. And we’ve seen companies produce new energy technologies and high-skilled jobs not in America, but in countries like China, India and Germany.
…There is no industry with more potential to create jobs now – and growth in the coming years – than clean energy.
It was essential – for our economy, our security, and our planet – that we finally tackle this challenge. That is why, since we took office, my administration has made an historic commitment to promote clean energy technology. This will mean hundreds of thousands of new American jobs by 2012. Jobs for contractors to install energy-saving windows and insulation. Jobs for factory workers to build high-tech vehicle batteries, electric cars, and hybrid trucks. Jobs for engineers and construction crews to create wind farms and solar plants that are going to double the renewable energy we can generate in this country. These are jobs building the future.
BrightSource solar plant (artist’s conception)
For example, I want share with you one new development, made possible by the clean energy incentives we have launched. This month, in the Mojave Desert, a company called BrightSource plans to break ground on a revolutionary new type of solar power plant. It’s going to put about a thousand people to work building a state-of-the-art facility. And when it’s complete, it will turn sunlight into the energy that will power up to 140,000 homes – the largest such plant in the world. Not in China. Not in India. But in California.
With projects like this one, and others across this country, we are staking our claim to continued leadership in the new global economy. And we’re putting Americans to work producing clean, home-grown American energy that will help lower our reliance on foreign oil and protect our planet for future generations.
Now there are some in Washington who want to shut them down. In fact, in the Pledge they recently released, the Republican leadership is promising to scrap all the incentives for clean energy projects, including those currently underway – even with all the jobs and potential that they hold.
This doesn’t make sense for our economy. It doesn’t make sense for Americans who are looking for jobs. And it doesn’t make sense for our future. To go backwards and scrap these plans means handing the competitive edge to China and other nations. It means that we’ll grow even more dependent on foreign oil. And, at a time of economic hardship, it means forgoing jobs we desperately need. In fact, shutting down just this one project would cost about a thousand jobs.
That’s what’s at stake in this debate. We can go back to the failed energy policies that profited the oil companies but weakened our country. We can go back to the days when promising industries got set up overseas. Or we can go after new jobs in growing industries. And we can spur innovation and help make our economy more competitive. We know the choice that’s right for America. We need to do what we’ve always done – put our ingenuity and can do spirit to work to fight for a brighter future. Thanks. Bron: Scientific American

Where Did the Carter White House’s Solar Panels Go?
One of the 32 solar-thermal panels that captured energy on the roof of the White House more than 30 years ago landed this week at a science museum in China
By David Biello | August 6, 2010
carter-white-house-solar-panels
The White House itself once harvested the power of the sun. On June 20, 1979, the Carter administration installed 32 panels designed to harvest the sun’s rays and use them to heat water.
Here is what Carter predicted at the dedication ceremony: “In the year 2000 this solar water heater behind me, which is being dedicated today, will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy…. A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.”
For some of the solar panels it is the former that has
come to pass: one resides at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, one at the Carter Library and, as of this week, one will join the collection of the Solar Science and Technology Museum in Dezhou, China. Huang Ming, chairman of Himin Solar Energy Group Co., the largest manufacturer of such solar hot water heaters in the world, accepted the donation for permanent display there on August 5. After all, companies like his in China now produce some 80 percent of the solar water heaters used in the world today.
But they are based on the same technology developed here in the U.S. and once manufactured in Warrentown, Va., by InterTechnology/Solar Corp., the company behind the Carter panels.* Roughly three meters long, one meter wide and just 10 centimeters deep, the blue-black panels absorb sunlight to heat water piped through their innards. The Carter administration set a goal of deriving 20 percent of U.S. energy needs from such renewable sources by the turn of the century. Today, the U.S. gets a mere 7 percent of its energy from renewables, the bulk of that from the massive hydroelectric dams constructed in the middle of the 20th century. Solar thermal and photovoltaic technology combined provide less than 0.1 percent.
By 1986, the Reagan administration had gutted the research and development budgets for renewable energy at the then-fledgling U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) and eliminated tax breaks for the deployment of wind turbines and solar technologies—recommitting the nation to reliance on cheap but polluting fossil fuels, often from foreign suppliers. “The Department of Energy has a multibillion-dollar budget, in excess of $10 billion,” Reagan said during an election debate with Carter, justifying his opposition to the latter’s energy policies. “It hasn’t produced a quart of oil or a lump of coal or anything else in the line of energy.”
And in 1986 the Reagan administration quietly dismantled the White House solar panel installation while resurfacing the roof. “Hey! That system is working. Why don’t you keep it?” recalls mechanical engineer Fred Morse, now of Abengoa Solar, who helped install the original solar panels as director of the solar energy program during the Carter years and then watched as they were dismantled during his tenure in the same job under Reagan. “Hey! This whole [renewable] R&D program is working, why don’t you keep it?” After they came down it took a soft-spoken administrator from a small environmental college in Maine to rescue the Carter panels from being a forgotten curiosity stored in the dark corner of a vast government warehouse.
A long, strange trip
In 1991 Peter Marbach was newly minted development director at Unity College in Maine, which was facing a severe budget crisis. Marbach needed to find a way to bring attention—and hopefully donations—to the struggling college and its mission: environmental education. Leafing through a magazine, he stumbled across a picture. “There was this photograph of the solar panels, but they were all sort of disheveled and sort of tossed in a corner in this government service warehouse in Franconia, Virginia,” he recalls. “It was just such a waste.”
Marbach, lithe from years of mountain climbing and other outdoor pursuits, seems slow to anger, but his eyes, crinkled at the edges from years of smiling, still flash when asked to recollect what inspired his rescue mission. Yet he doesn’t sound angry, so much as bemused. “It was in that instant where I was just so filled with anger and disappointment that: How could this happen?” he says. “Wouldn’t it be something if I could somehow find a way to get these panels and resurrect them?”
Marbach wrote to former President Carter, who wrote back: “It would please me very much to see those panels in use again.” He also enlisted the aid of Maine’s former U.S. senator, William Cohen. Armed with Carter’s letter and Cohen’s support he contacted the General Services Administration —the independent government agency that is landlord to other government agencies and generally runs the physical stuff of government. The GSA determined Unity was eligible as an institution of higher learning to take the panels for an administrative fee of $500.
The panels weighed more than 45 kilograms each and there were 32 of them. Marbach just had a battered, blue school bus that was mostly used to carry the school soccer team to away games nearby. “The soccer coach was giving me a hard time,” Marbach chuckles as he remembers. “He said, ‘You realize that if you take that bus and drive it down there I have no excuse to ask the administration to get us a new bus because that will prove the bus can go that far.'”
Marbach pressed on, stripping the seats out of the bus to make room for his cargo and enduring a bumpy and loud trip down the eastern seaboard. Once in Virginia, he pulled up to the grounds of a federal warehouse he describes as much like the fictional one used to store the Ark of the Covenant in the first Indiana Jones movie, “just bigger” and stacked with unused furniture and crates of office supplies rather than mysterious archaeological artifacts. A golf cart and an attendant drove Marbach through the cavernous space, where he found the solar panels in a dim corner gathering dust instead of sunlight. Some were broken. “It just looked like there was not a lot of thought given to taking care of these things,” Marbach says.
A new dawn?
There was a lot of thought given to installing the 32 solar panels in the first place, not least because the system could not alter the look or profile of the White House in any way. In fact, Morse, who first got involved with solar during the Nixon administration by being asked to assess its potential, spent years determining what could be installed. Ultimately, he had to make parts of the panels white, rather than a darker (more sunlight-absorbent) color. On June 30, 1979, the panels were unveiled, although they remained invisible from the ground.
“It was the oil shock that pretty much caused the government to take a very serious look at its domestic solar resource,” recalls Abengoa’s Morse, who has spent decades aiding and abetting the still fledgling solar thermal industry both in government and out. “The motivation was energy independence,” a motive that remains recognizable in political rhetoric today because, as Carter himself put it, the sun cannot be embargoed, referring to the 1973–74 Arab oil embargo. “We have this big solar resource, we should use it,” Morse explains. SEE ALSO:
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Carter was the first president to take that idea seriously, warming the reviewing stand for his inauguration on January 20, 1977 with the sun’s heat harvested by roughly 1,000 square meters of solar thermal panels, according to Morse. “President Carter saw [solar] as a really valid energy resource, and he understood it. I mean, it is a domestic resource and it is huge,” Morse recalls, although he admits the inaugural solar system left some chilly. “It was the symbolism of the president wanting to bring solar energy immediately into his administration.”
That symbolism became more concrete in the form of a vastly increased budget for energy technology research and development (pdf)—levels still unmatched by succeeding administrations —and tax credits for installing wind turbines or solar power that caused a first boom in renewable energy installation. In a sense alternative energy was finally getting the same government support used to develop and maintain other energy technologies, such as oil drilling or nuclear power. “It did not take long for the U.S. government to realize that energy was a great national interest and subsidize it,” Morse notes.
But the real symbolism was the Carter family using hot water heated by the sun for some of their daily activities. “It was used for the cafeteria, in the laundry and other parts of the White House,” Morse says.
That was symbolism that Morse suggests the Reagan administration did not support as wholeheartedly. “We had a new administration that really did not like renewables very much. I don’t know if you remember those days when it was called alternative energy and there was something about ‘alternative’ that did not sit very well.” So when the time came to resurface the roof, the panels were taken down. “It was working fine, but the decision was it was not cost-effective.”
Where they ended up Morse still has no idea.
Driving the future
In fact, since 1992 16 of the 32 solar panels have been on the Unity College cafeteria roof, located just 15 minutes from the often overcast coast of Maine, warming water in summer and winter. The rest went back into storage, too big to fit in an area that is much smaller than the White House roof. Once Marbach arrived back at the college, donations flooded in to help refurbish and install them, including a gift of $150,000 worth of pre–Mobil merger Exxon stock, money from actress Glenn Close and a mention by Al Gore during a campaign stop in Maine that year.
“From around the country, we just got lots of letters, phone calls of support, and it just sort of restarted the whole conversation about alternative energy,” Marbach recalls. “Imagine where we would be today if those panels were left there, if the Reagan administration had continued the funding.”
Instead, it is countries such as Germany and Japan that have taken the lead as far as developing and deploying solar photovoltaics, whereas Italy and Spain now dominate solar-thermal technology, as evidenced by Morse’s employment at a Spain-based solar company building power plants in Arizona. “We look[ed] for the bright red spots of high [solar] intensity [in the satellite data] and then we carefully searched for a farmer who wanted to sell his land,” Morse says of the Solana concentrating solar-power plant, currently under construction southwest of Phoenix. “What is nice about a farm is that it is previously disturbed land…and we will use less than 20 percent of what the farmer used for water.” And it is China that has taken the lead when it comes to using the sun to heat hot water for daily use, installing roughly two thirds of total global capacity. “In the U.S. everyone already has a hot water system heated by natural gas, oil or electricity,” explains physicist C. Julian Chen of Columbia University, who helped arrange the donation of the Carter panel to the Chinese people. “More than 80 percent of Chinese people do not have hot water; they need it. If you start from scratch, the solar water heater is cheaper.”
That has made companies like Himin very successful and has cut energy use in cities such as Rizhao—attempting to become carbon neutral—by a third. And Himin’s Huang helped author a 2005 Chinese law that calls for 10 percent of Chinese energy to come from renewable resources by 2020—reminiscent of the policies laid out by Carter in a speech on April 18, 1977. Already, China derives nearly 10 percent of its energy from renewable resources, primarily hydropower such as the Three Gorges Dam, although it led the world in installing wind turbines in 2009.
In the U.S. some activists have called on the Obama administration to bring solar back to the White House roof—and solar company Sungevity has offered to install 102 of its photovoltaic panels for free. “I think Barack Obama knows this problem, and he tries to correct that historical mistake,” Chen says. “He appointed Steven Chu as energy secretary, and Steven Chu is a well-known supporter of renewable energy.”
Of course, solar panels back atop the White House remain merely a symbolic step toward renewable energy. Already, certain buildings on the grounds of the federal landmark employ solar power, courtesy of the National Park Service and President George W. Bush. Yet, the U.S. invests only $5 billion yearly on energy research and development at present—roughly one seventh what China spent last year—and private industry has never filled the gap. And it would take producing roughly a square meter of photovoltaic panels or the mirrors for a solar thermal system every few seconds for the next 40 years to harvest one terawatt of energy from the sun by 2050—using present technologies—according to engineer Saul Griffith of Other Lab in San Francisco. The U.S. presently uses almost four terawatts of energy a year.
In fact, heating hot water alone accounts for 17 percent of U.S. energy use, according to the DoE. Carter’s panels no longer cut into Unity’s energy budget; the panels operations were shut down in 2005 and the college has donated three to various institutions since 2007, one at time—and plans more donations in future. “We are discussing seriously within our community what the long-term disposition of those panels will be,” says Mark Tardif, a spokesman for Unity College. For the moment, most still sit on the cafeteria roof. “They are probably going to come down from that location, probably by the end of summer.”
Regardless of their ultimate fate, it took the pluck and initiative of one man to rescue the Carter White House solar panels from the dustbin of political and ecological history. “There was a lot of sweat, a lot of dirt, a lot of struggle, but still just to have your hands on a piece of history and to know that, okay, these things are not going to be just a relic,” Marbach recalls. “We were actually going to be able to resurrect them.”
And those solar-thermal collectors also symbolize an alternative history. “We certainly didn’t address the oil and energy issues going back to when Carter tried,” Tardif says. “Maybe it would be different if Americans understood what actually happened. We were poised to achieve 20 percent renewables by 2000. What happened?”
*Correction (8/6/10): This sentence was edited after posting. It originally stated that the White House solar panels were manufactured by Heliodyne Solar Hot Water.
Editor’s Note: David Biello is the host of a forthcoming series on PBS, titled Beyond the Light Switch. The series will explore the coming transformation of how we use and produce electricity, along with its impact on the environment, national security and the economy. He conducted the interviews for this article in conjunction with his work on that series.


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