The White House Goes Solar

The White House is going solar -- again.

Solar panels were installed on the White House last week, part of President Obama's commitment to use more renewable energy. It wasn't announced who the manufacturer was, but the solar panels were made in the U.S., making this the latest addition to a growing residential solar industry.

It ends a 40-month process that began with Energy Secretary Steven Chu's announcement of the solar installation for the White House. Apparently those soft costs that make solar more expensive in the U.S. than in Germany are magnified when the White House is involved.

We've been here before
This isn't the first time, or even second, that solar panels have been installed at the White House. Jimmy Carter installed 32 panels on the West Wing in 1979, only to have them removed by Ronald Reagan.  

Photo: Carter Library.

President George W. Bush quietly had 167 solar panels installed on a maintenance shed in 2002, and they've been delivering electricity ever since.  

The latest installation will be on the White House residence, putting them front and center at the country's most famous address. It is also the biggest symbol in President Obama's effort to get more power from renewable energy.

A sign of the times
Considering the amount of time and energy it must have taken just to permit the installation of solar panels, it's doubtful this is a profitable endeavor for the White House. Officials are saying the payback for the project is eight years, but that's probably just considering hard costs of the panels and installation. There's more than just cost involved when such a visible address goes solar.

For the solar industry, it's a symbol of the progress that's been made since President Carter installed panels in 1979 and President Reagan removed them in 1986. Solar power is no longer a pipe dream of the tree huggers and environmentally conscious engineers; it's a reality that millions of Americans get power from today and millions more will be considering over the next few years.

SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY  ) has set its sights on having 1 million rooftop solar installations in the next five years, First Solar   (NASDAQ: FSLR  ) has built power plants that can power more than half a million homes, and SunPower   (NASDAQ: SPWR  ) is building the world's largest solar plant along with building a residential solar business as well.

The revolution is here
Having solar panels on the White House was once a symbolic move made by presidents hoping the industry would one day be able to sustain itself. Today, it's a symbol of an energy revolution that's taking place before our eyes. The U.S. as a whole installed 3.3 GW of solar power last year -- about the size of three nuclear plants -- and more than double that amount will be installed this year. It may only make up a small percentage of the electricity we consume today, but costs are now reaching grid parity in a growing part of the country, and with costs down 37% over the past two years, the industry will continue to grow, not because of political will but because it's economically sound to do so. The White House is just the latest residence to see the merits of going solar.

As the energy industry changes, everyone from consumers to investors will have to adapt. Just in time, we've found three companies that are positioned perfectly to profit from the installation of cleaner energy around the country. Check out the special free report "3 Stocks for the American Energy Bonanza" to find out how you can profit. Don't miss out on this timely opportunity; click here to access your report -- it's absolutely free. 


Read/Post Comments (16) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 1:31 PM, Rightwingwacko23 wrote:

    Reagan was a fool to have removed them. Idiot.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 1:46 PM, tigerade wrote:

    Wonderful news. I love solar power.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 2:25 PM, RobP1965 wrote:

    This is a big steaming pile. Is the White House 100% solar? No because you can't be 100% solar. Was it cheap? No. It was pricey and probably two or three times what it should have cost. Pretend energy solutions and feel good stories do nothing for me but remind me how much I hate the USG

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 2:41 PM, JPThursby wrote:

    The government has done right for once.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 2:42 PM, Paul8888888 wrote:

    This has been so politicized. Panels keep going up and down.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 2:43 PM, pjlindseyusa wrote:

    "The U.S. as a whole installed 3.3 GW of solar power last year -- about the size of three nuclear plants..."

    A comparison that only the uninformed will accept. Those solar panels produce how much power at Night? when Cloudy? when there is Snow on them? They produce no power if the grid goes down, because the vast majority of solar systems are grid-tied, meaning that they automatically disconnect upon loss of utility power in order to prevent electrocuting the line workers. Then there's the simple fact that the utility has to maintain the grid and be able to supply 100% of the power demand at a moment's notice, but because of net-metering, the utility is paying retail prices for wholesale electricity. (I bet the WH has a diesel backup power generator.)

    If it were not for the state renewable energy mandates, tax credits (that only benefit those people with a high enough tax liability,) net-metering (aka using the grid as a pseudo-bank), and renewable energy credits (really paid by the utility customers w/o solar PV on their roofs), solar PV would be dead. It would have been much more efficient to insulate older homes and replace older windows with dual-pane low-e ones, but that's not "cool". So now we have an entire industry that is dependent upon rent-seeking to succeed.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 3:15 PM, alcesbison wrote:

    Dear RobP1963- So you hate the USG, eh? I remember a time when people who talked like you were shot at Kent State for protesting the war in Vietnam. You are no patriot because your vitriol is not specific. You hate the USG period. You think you can say that with impunity because you think you speak for a silent majority. You don't. Your kind says you love America. You don't. You hate what you think America has become. More to the point, you hate Americans like me. Your voice will not prevail. And when your hatred fails...the rest of us will say good riddance. In the mean time, I wish you would just get off my internet.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 3:32 PM, phillipzx3 wrote:

    "If it were not for the state renewable energy mandates, tax credits (that only benefit those people with a high enough tax liability,) net-metering (aka using the grid as a pseudo-bank), and renewable energy credits (really paid by the utility customers w/o solar PV on their roofs), solar PV would be dead. "

    You must have really been upset to see the Stanley Steamer replaced with the internal combustion engine. :-)

    Speaking of taxpayer subsidies...the next time you decide to get all upset over them, take a peek at how much we give the fossil fuel industry. Renewables, like solar, pale in comparison. Close to 4 to 1 in favor of the fossil industry. If it were not for these subsidies, the fossil fuel industry would be dead. $20 gasoline vs. $5 in electricity for an equal BTU of energy.

    The old saying, "Pot, meet kettle" certainly applies to you and your post.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 3:55 PM, pjlindseyusa wrote:

    "You must have really been upset to see the Stanley Steamer replaced with the internal combustion engine. :-)"

    No, no more than seeing diesel RR engines replace steam, because the IC engine was an improvement in efficiency, maintenance, ease 0f operation and reliability over the steam engine. That is why the USN has shifted the majority of its ships from steam to GT. Solar PV is not an improvement over centralized power generation, except for those people who place the adjectives "evil, nasty, profiteering" in front of "electrical utilities".

    Regarding taxpayers subsidies: (1) I'm sure that your definition of subsidies includes the tax deductions that other US businesses are allowed to take. You just don't like that oil, gas & coal companies are allowed to take them. (2) You need to normalize your subsidy calculation to a per-BTU or per-kW-produced level for an apples-to-apples comparison.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 4:30 PM, maxsdad53 wrote:

    Funny how libs forget that Reagan had them removed because after Carter had them installed they never worked and were DAMAGING THE ROOF of the White House. And somehow they also don't remember that Bush had AMERICAN MADE solar panels installed on the residence as well as on outbuildings. But since libs giggle over $5000 worth of garden veggies that only cost the taxpayer $125,000 per year, I guess they're positively orgasmic over Obama's dry humping attempt at 'green energy.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 6:27 PM, buzzltyr wrote:

    Gaaawd so many idiots s when it comes to solar. Hey gopheads, guess what, we do not need electricity at night, we already have more than we can use. We need electricity summer afternoons when it is hot.

    So why build a very expensive nat gas plant that will require a huge full time staff and will run 24/7, when we only need the power summer afternoons.

    Do you get it or are you really that stupid

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 6:50 PM, bcweir wrote:

    I had a pet GOP once. It needed polluted air, dirty water, and poisoned food to survive, and it was terrified of the color brown. I went on vacation and a neighbor, not knowing how to care for it, gave it fresh food and and water, and put it in a clean air environment while cleaning its cage.

    He called to tell me that it died right away.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 7:55 PM, dsong wrote:

    The solar is the future. The fussil oil will go away in

    100-200 years, however, solar energy will be here as the sun shines. That means 50 billion years.

    So no matter you hate or like the solar energy, it is there and become bigger and bigger.

    It is clearn and exist every where that it needs no transportation.

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 9:33 PM, speculawyer wrote:

    I have installed my own solar PV system. It is a better investment than anything on the market. Virtually zero risk, fully known pay-back rate, the pay-back is tax-free electricity, and I get a tax-credit.

    Oh, and to top it off . . . it fuels my electric car so I never pay for gasoline either. I'm fully hedged against both gasoline and electricity prices.

  • Report this Comment On August 20, 2013, at 2:51 PM, Connelky wrote:

    400 parts per million, time to stop the bs-ing an wake up.

  • Report this Comment On August 27, 2013, at 3:26 AM, energychoice wrote:

    I think, solar panels should be installed in all houses because it is not only reduce electricity bills but also give us pollution free nature.

    http://www.energy-choice.com.au/

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