Politics

White House to get New Solar Panels in the Spring

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Solyndra Chief executive Officer Chris Gronet, right, and Executive Vice President Ben Bierman, looks at a solar panel during a tour of Solyndra, Inc., a solar panel manufacturing facility, in Fremont, Calif. Wednesday, May 26, 2010. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Solyndra Chief executive Officer Chris Gronet, right, and Executive Vice President Ben Bierman, looks at a solar panel during a tour of Solyndra, Inc., a solar panel manufacturing facility, in Fremont, Calif. Wednesday, May 26, 2010. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The White House was unable to put their political muscle behind passing a comprehensive energy bill this year, but that hasn't stopped them from trying to reduce the government's carbon footprint on a smaller scale. The administration announced plans to install solar electrical panels and a solar hot water heater on the roof of the White House at a Tuesday morning clean energy conference in Washington.

The panels should be installed by the spring of 2011, just in time for D.C.'s notoriously hot and sunny summer.

In the announcement, Energy Secretary Steven Chu says that the first family can act as an example for others. "The project will show that American solar technology is available, reliable, and ready to install in homes throughout the country," Chu said, "Around the world the White House is a symbol of freedom and democracy. It should also be a symbol of America's commitment to a clean energy future."

Critics note that solar energy costs as much as four times more than traditional sources of energy like coal or natural gas.

The White House has had an up and down history with solar panel technology. Solar panels first went up during the Carter administration as a way to heat water for the West Wing. Early solar technology wasn't as efficient as it is now and staffers often complained about the heating system's ineffectiveness.

The panels came down during the Reagan administration, but made a comeback during the Clinton years.

The White House installed more panels during George W. Bush's administration. They powered a maintenance building, part of the mansion, and heated the pool.

The new panels will be installed on the first family's living quarters in the center of the White House.