Solar planned for White House

Author and environmental activist Bill McKibben has got to be smirking.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Council of Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley just announced President Obama's intention to install solar panels and a solar hot water heater on the White House roof. The message?

That the solar installations "will be part of a Department of Energy demonstration project showing that American solar technologies are available, reliable and ready for installation in homes throughout the country."

That's in stark contrast to last month when McKibben and a crew of Unity College students hauled a solar panel all the way from Maine to the White House. It had been installed on the White House by President Carter's administration and taken down by President Reagan's.

The move was symbolic. A "softball" to President Obama to embrace solar.

However, the response from the White House when the Unity crew arrived was chilly. No big reception. Just a couple of staffers reciting party lines about energy efficiency policies. Wow.

The organizers of -- another McKibben-supported group -- let out a collective groan. The group is seeking to build enthusiasm and work crews for its 10/10/10 initiative, which means to launch into environmental cleanup and clean energy projects across the globe on that date. A grassroots go-green-for-real movement.

But somebody must have been listening in the Obama administration.

"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," Sutley said in a statement.

"Good for the White House," McKibben tweeted soon after the announcement. He linked to The Associated Press story by reporter Dina Cappello.

Part of the mission was to promote Oct. 10, or 10/10/10, an effort launched by McKibben and students to stage a global work day in which teams pursue clean energy projects across the globe. is the website coordinating various projects.

Part of the Unity mission was to promote Oct. 10. is the website coordinating various projects.

On the site this morning, the White House move was top news. McKibben, never at a loss for words, had this to say:

“The White House did the right thing, and for the right reasons: they listened to the Americans who asked for solar on their roof, and they listened to the scientists and engineers who told them this is the path to the future.

"If it has anything like the effect of the White House garden, it could be a trigger for a wave of solar installations across the country and around the world."

McKibben also said Obama's not the only world leader taking the challenge, explaining that Maldivian president Mohammed Nasheed will install panels on his official residence.

Along with Obama's announcement, the U.S. Department of Energy also released "Procuring Solar Energy: A Guide for Federal Facility Decision Makers" to support the use of solar energy throughout the federal government.