Hey, George W. Bush Put Solar Panels on the White House, Too

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Many people don't seem to remember that George W. Bush was the first president to put solar electric panels on the White House. That may be because the solar panels Jimmy Carter installed on the White House are (rightly) far more famous, symbolic as they were of Carter's symbolic effort to stimulate alternative energy.

But the curious memory lapse could also stem from the value right-wing media concerns see in linking Obama with Carter, as MediaMatters points out.

So, in the interest of an accurate historical record, and thanks to Google News Archive -- allow me to reintroduce the Bush solar panels back into the discussion.

A January 23, 2003 story by the trade journal GovPro explains:

The Bush administration has installed the first-ever solar electric system on the grounds of the White House. The National Park Service, which manages the White House complex, installed a nine kilowatt, rooftop solar electric or photovoltaic system, as well as two solar thermal systems that heat water used on the premises.

"We believe in these technologies, and they've been working for us very successfully," said James Doherty, the architect and project manager at the National Park Service Office for White House Liaison. "The National Park Service as a whole has long been interested in both sustainable design and renewable energy sources. We also have a mission to lower our energy consumption at all our sites, and we saw an opportunity to do both at the White House grounds."

Solar Design Associates designed and oversaw the installation, which was placed on the roof of the main building used for White House grounds maintenance. The PV system feeds solar generated power into the White House grounds' distribution system, providing electricity wherever it is needed.

Perhaps it would also make sense to note, while we're on energy and environmental history, that it was Richard Nixon who signed the Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts. That one cuts both ways, doesn't it?

Hat tip: Andy Revkin

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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