The White House currently has solar panels on the roof.
Former US President Jimmy Carter was considered ahead of his time on climate change issues, as demonstrated by the installation of solar panels on the roof of the White House in the 1970s. Years later, Reagan removed the plaques when he came to power, and they returned decades later during the Obama administration. Some sources have reported that the solar panels installed by Obama are still in place. We’re in the process of checking that out.
A photo of Carter showing the panels he installed at a dedication ceremony in 1979 was popular on Reddit in September 2022:
While the above caption correctly states that Carter showed the solar panels to White House guests, it is incorrect when Carter’s successor, President Ronald Reagan, had the solar panels removed. Carter had 32 panels installed there that were used to heat the home’s water for seven years until the Reagan administration removed them in 1986 — less than two years later, the Post claims. According to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, which now has one of the original tablets in its collection, they were a symbol of Carter’s belief in “the power of the sun.”
The above photo is from the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library collection and was published in the New York Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The same image can be seen on Britannica. The New York Times caption reads, “In 1979, President Carter demonstrated new solar panels in the West Wing that would provide hot water for the White House.”
Various recordings of this event are available in the National Archives catalog and recordings of this special moment can be seen in the bottom half of the photographic film scans. These photos were taken at the White House dedication ceremony for the solar panels.
At the ceremony, which took place in June 1979, Carter said:
Even in the year 2000, this solar thermal plant behind me, which will be inaugurated today, will still be here and provide cheap, efficient energy […] In a generation from today, this solar heater may be either a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a path not trodden, or just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures the American people have ever embarked upon.
Other photos from the same event show the plaques more clearly on the roof of the White House Cabinet Room, where the dedication ceremony appears to be taking place.
What happened to these plates after they were removed? According to Scientific American, one ended up in the National Museum of American History, one in the Carter Library, and one in the Solar Science and Technology Museum in Dezhou, China.
During the 2002 administration of former President George W. Bush, solar panels made a comeback in the White House, but not on the roof of the Executive Mansion. According to the White House Historical Association, beginning in 2002, the National Park Service oversaw the installation of three solar power systems on the White House grounds. The installation during his tenure helped heat the White House swimming pool.
In 2010, then-US President Barack Obama announced that he would once again install solar cells on the roof of the White House. Installation was completed in 2014. The following video shows the process:
We reached out to the White House Historical Association to see if there were any updates or changes to the bodies during the Trump administration. They shared a photo from a July 2021 news article showing the panels still visible, stating, “According to photographers, the panels are still installed on the roof.” While they confirmed the panels were still there, they could but not verify with certainty whether the Trump administration made changes to them before 2020.
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Blinder, Alan. “Jimmy Carter champions solar decades after the Cardigan.” The New York Times, February 11, 2017. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/11/us/jimmy-carter- solar-energy-plains-ga.html. Retrieved 6 Oct 2022.
“Jimmy Carter leases his land to solar power, much of the prairie.” Atlanta Journal Constitution, February 8, 2017. https://www.ajc.com/news/jimmy-carter-leases-his-land-solar-power -much-plains/XwFS50Kf1wEI9fXxpvSUnM/. Retrieved 6 Oct 2022.
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“The roof of the White House.” Whitehouse. Gov, 9 May 2014, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2014/05/09/roof-white-house. Accessed October 7, 2022.
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“White House Solar Panel”. National Museum of American History, https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1356218. Retrieved 6 Oct 2022.