So, How About Those White House Solar Panels?

Posted: Jun 21, 2011 9:58 AM

Apparently, going green isn't as easy as President Obama and his Administration have talked it up to be. Remember when the President and his energy secretary promised to install solar panels on the White House roof? Another Obama Promise Broken.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced in October that after a nearly three-decade hiatus. the White House would once again have a solar water-heating system mounted on its roof, as well as photovoltaic cells.

Chu said the panels would be up “by the end of this spring." Spring ended Monday, and the panels aren't there.

"The Energy Department remains on the path to complete the White House solar demonstration project," Ramamoorthy Ramesh, director of the agency's SunShot Initiative and Solar Energy Technologies Program, said in a statement. The DOE's SunShot Initiative aims at shaving down the cost of solar power by 75 percent by the end of the decade.
But founder and solar roof campaigner Bill McKibben didn't mince words over his disappointment in the DOE and Obama.

"This was a no-brainer," he said in a statement Monday. "Republicans couldn't filibuster it, the oil companies weren't fighting it, and it still didn't get done when they said it would.


"The DOE's SunShot Initiative aims at shaving down the cost of solar power by 75 percent by the end of the decade." Could it be that installing solar panels on the White House roof would have been too expensive and inefficient? And therefore it hasn't been done yet?

Expensive: Yes

Currently, it can cost 20 cents or more to produce a kilowatt-hour of electricity from a solar-power system, depending on where the system is located and the level of incentives offered. By contrast, generating electricity from coal or natural gas costs between 2 and 10 cents a kilowatt-hour, depending on the fuel and age of the power plant, while utility power in the U.S. averages about 8.9 cents, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Inefficient: Yes

The problem with thin film is its efficiency. First Solar's panels, made from cadmium telluride, convert 10.5% of the sunlight they receive into electricity, while San Jose, Calif.-based Nanosolar Inc. makes thin-film panels from copper indium gallium selenide, or CIGS, that are 14% efficient. That's still below the 19% efficiency of silicon panels made by Sunpower Corp. of San Jose. In addition, CIGS makers have yet to figure out how to produce their more efficient thin-film panels on a large commercial scale at a competitive cost.