Last October, Energy Secretary Steven Chu promised that the White House would install solar panels and a solar hot water heater before the start of the summer season. Summer is almost over but there are still no new solar power installations within the White House premises.
The Energy Department said that the project’s progress was stunted by the competitive procurement process. Its spokesperson Joelle Terry declined to give any details regarding holdup of the project and didn’t give any timeline for its completion.
During the time of President George W. Bush, the National Park Service installed solar panels on the White House outbuildings. The agency also declined to comment as to why the previous solar power project on the property was completed faster than the current project.
The National Park Service declined to comment on the project and directed the questions towards the White House. White House also didn’t want to answer questions regarding the issue and point the reporters towards the Department of Energy.
Solar Design Associates is the company that installed the solar panels on the White House outbuildings but it doesn’t want to comment about the current project. A search was made among the government contracts and found a $10,000 contract awarded last January to Overly Manufacturing Company. The contract stated that it was to support the contractor for the PV system and to ensure that the White House roof is not damaged during the installation.
No one was willing to shed light into the bidding process for the solar panels on top of the White House. It would not be the first time that solar panels would be installed in the most famous government building in the United States. During President Jimmy Carter’s administration, he installed 32 solar panels.
In 1986, the solar panels were ordered removed by President Ronald Reagan. Then the solar panels made a comeback in White House properties during Bush’s administration. The National Park Service installed the solar panels on the president’s cabana to heat the water for the outdoor swimming pool as well as on top of a maintenance building.
The plan for installing solar panels on top of the White House roof was announced by Energy Secretary Chu during the GreenGov Symposium, which was sponsored by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and held last October 5-7, 2010.
The project was supposed to be part of the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative that aims to make solar power technology more competitive in terms of costing. At present, solar power is just one percent of the total energy produced through alternative means in the United States.