Town of Dayton, Maine - Solar Electric
Solar panels are becoming a more common sight on public buildings, such as this solar electric system on the Town Hall of Dayton, Maine. Now a group of Unity College students aims to put solar on the White House.

We’re thrilled to see that a group of Unity students have embarked on a journey to Washington to encourage Obama to put solar panels back on the White House.

It was President Jimmy Carter who first put solar hot water collectors on the White House on June 20, 1979, used originally to heat water for the White House staff eating area.  The panels represented a new solar strategy that Carter said was going to “move our nation toward true energy security and abundant, readily available energy supplies.”

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan had the panels removed, and now, in 2010, students are bringing one of the panels back.

Here’s an audio clip from yesterday’s Democracy Now featuring Bill McKibben, founder of the green group, and Unity student Jean Altomare:


This project is starting to gather more and more momentum as the caravan draws closer to Washington. Here’s an excerpt from a Reuters Blog Post on the effort:

Bill McKibben, founder of the green group, is on a quest to convince President Barack Obama to put solar panels back on the roof of the White House.

He’s at the end of a journey to Washington from Maine in a van fired by biodiesel carrying one of the 32 panels Jimmy Carter unveiled in 1979 during the first press conference on the White House roof.

Also in the van are students from Unity College, which got the the panels some time after President Ronald Reagan, no fan of alternative energy, had workers remove the panels during “roof repairs” in 1986.

McKibben had hoped to meet with somebody high up in the Obama administration such as Carol Browner, Obama’s top energy and climate aide. He’s been talking all week with the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) on the plan.

”They keep saying it’s complicated and difficult, but compared with the other tasks they face, we think this one is relatively simple and it would be a great statement,” McKibben said via cell phone from the van.

… U.S. seed sales shot higher the year after Michelle Obama planted a vegetable garden on the White House grounds. Solar power backers say President Obama could spark a similar reaction in their business if he put panels on top of the most coveted real estate in the country.

You can follow the story of the students on their blog,

We wish the Mainers good luck!

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