News Column

White House to Get U.S.-made Solar Panels

August 15, 2013

Dana Hull

white house
White House (file photo)

After years of urging by the solar industry, the White House confirmed Thursday that American-made solar panels are being installed on the First Family's residence as part of an energy retrofit that will improve the overall energy efficiency of the historic building.

Climate change activists, environmentalists and solar advocates applauded the move.

"Better late than never -- in truth, no one should ever have taken down the panels Jimmy Carter put on the roof way back in 1979," said Bill McKibben, founder of the environmental group "But it's very good to know that once again the country's most powerful address will be drawing some of that power from the sun."

President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels in 1979, but they were taken down by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.

In the fall of 2010, then Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu announced that the White House would install solar panels by the end of Spring 2011. That deadline passed, raising questions about whether the Obama administration would ever make good on its commitment.

"Today, solar is generating enough electricity to power more than 1.3 million American homes," said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. "We're extraordinarily proud to be adding the White House to this constantly-growing list."

The energy retrofit on the White House will include the installation of energy-saving equipment such as updated building controls and variable speed fans, according to a White House official.

There was no announcement as to which solar company was providing the panels. San Jose-based SunPower (SPWRA) is a leading American manufacturer of rooftop solar panels, as is Arizona-based FirstSolar. Both companies make the bulk of their panels oversees but maintain small manufacturing lines here in the United States.

Currently, there's more than 8,500 megawatts of solar electricity capacity installed in the United States, and more than 30 large, utility-scale solar power plants are under construction, according to SEIA.

Contact Dana Hull at 408-920-2706. Follow her at


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