Last October, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu and Council of Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley announced that both a PV array and a solar water heating system would be installed on the roof of the White House. A competitive procurement process to select the projects' installers was set to begin shortly thereafter.
The self-imposed deadline for completion of this dual-technology installation was the end of this spring. Environmental advocacy organization 350.org, which had lobbied the administration to install a solar array at the White House, subsequently has been urging supporters to ‘remind’ Obama of the looming June 21 deadline.
However, today's announcement from the DOE does not proclaim the completion of the promised project – or provide any indication of on-the-roof progress.
Instead, the DOE's blog post, titled ‘An Update on White House Solar Panels and Our Solar Program,’ focused on the broader solar-focused projects that the department is currently undertaking.
Installing solar at the White House is just ‘one component of the Energy Department's larger, ambitious SunShot Initiative to reduce the total installed cost of solar energy systems by about 75 percent before the end of the decade,’ wrote Ramamoorthy Ramesh, director of the SunShot Initiative and Solar Energy Technologies Program.
Ramesh also highlighted the DOE's Rooftop Solar Challenge, which is designed to streamline solar project installations' administrative processes, and SunShot Incubator, which aims to scale up innovative manufacturing technologies.
‘The Energy Department remains on the path to complete the White House solar demonstration project, in keeping with our commitment, and we look forward to sharing more information – including additional details on the timing of this project – after the competitive procurement process is completed,’ Ramesh wrote.
Although some solar sector professionals have derided efforts to see solar on the White House as a distracting publicity stunt, others insist that the completion of the promised project would send a demonstrative global signal about the administration's commitment to the deployment of renewable energy.
In its petition papers, 350.org urges Obama to ‘use this symbolic solar installation as an opportunity to usher in a new era of clean energy and climate action for our country and our planet.’
Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, has also expressed support for the initiative. ‘Putting solar on the roof of the nation's most important home is a powerful symbol calling on all Americans to rethink how we create energy,’ Resch stated in October, after Obama announced his solar project plans.