A Moment of Science

What Happened To Jimmy Carter’s Solar Panels?

You may remember that Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the White House. What happened to them?

Solar Panels

Photo: Wayne National Forest (Flickr)

Jimmy Carter did install solar panels on the White House.

Jimmy Carter once put solar panels on the White House. Are they still there? If not, where are they now?

White House Solar Panels

In the late spring of 1979, Carter did in fact install a solar system on the White House.

There were four solar arrays with tubes inside that carried water heated by the sun to a tank in the White House basement. The hot water was used in the White House staff cafeteria.

Jimmy Carter’s “Solar Bank”

But it’s important to understand that the solar panels were mainly a symbolic gesture of Carter’s commitment to digging the United States out of the energy crisis of the 1970s.

Carter also proposed creating a 100 million dollar “solar bank” to fund solar energy projects throughout the country. The president had made several important speeches about the need to conserve energy, and this was one of his first concrete proposals to support alternative energy.

What Happened To The Panels?

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out the way Carter hoped. First, the Iran hostage crisis put everything else on the back burner.

Then Carter lost the 1980 presidential race to Ronald Reagan, who was not particularly interested in solar energy. A few years later, in 1986, Reagan had the solar panels removed and put into storage.

Eventually, the panels were donated to Unity College, in Maine, where they were once again used to provide hot water for a cafeteria. Today, one of the panels is on display at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta.

Read More: Jimmy Carter’s solar panels help power a Maine college, then star in film (boston.com)

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