• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • White House Solar Installation Symbolic of Solar Energy Push

    President Obama is channeling his inner Jimmy Carter again.

    In 1979, President Carter had solar panels installed on the roof of the White House, and they were taken down in the Reagan Administration during roof repairs. Today, the White House announced that that Obama Administration will use taxpayer dollars to build solar panels and a solar hot water heater on the roof of the White House in the spring of 2011.

    It’s an easy decision to make when you’re not the one paying for it. The government’s Energy Information Agency projects that electricity from solar cells will cost nearly five times as much as electricity from natural-gas-fired power plants—in 2016. So not only will taxpayers have to foot the bill for the project, but they’ll also be paying for pricier electricity. Keep in mind that exorbitant costs do not take into account the unreliable nature of solar (the sun doesn’t shine all the time) or for the additional transmission costs to build lines from where solar panels are to where the electricity is needed. The government should let American taxpayers know how this investment pans out.

    The fact that President Carter installed solar panels on the White House is important to note for one particular reason. It was 1979. The solar industry is not an up-and-coming industry that needs taxpayer dollars; it is a highly subsidized industry that relies on taxpayer support to compete in the marketplace. Solar receives subsidies of over $23 per megawatt hour—compared with the $0.44 for conventional coal and $0.25 for natural gas—but provides a very small fraction of America’s electricity.

    Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said of the announcement: “This project reflects President Obama’s strong commitment to U.S. leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home. Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come.” But how? How does forcing Americans to pay more for electricity—the lifeblood of our economy—result in economic growth or jobs creation? The truth is that it merely fills the solar industry’s pockets with taxpayers’ money.

    The sad part is that federal subsidies for solar power actually harm the long-term health of the renewable energy industry. It causes resources to flow away from the most promising renewable technologies and toward those preferred by bureaucrats and politicians. This system essentially awards mediocrity at the expense of innovation, competition, and economic sustainability. Any system that punishes the precise elements on which success depends is bound for failure.

    This failed approach to renewable energy is unfolding in other countries every day.
    Spain and Germany are leading the race in the clean energy; as President Obama says, “they’re making real investments in renewable energy.” But what’s at the finish line? If Spain and Germany provide any indication, it’s a slumping economy, and both countries are cutting back the subsidies. In May, E&E reported:

    Only two years ago, Spanish solar energy companies feasting on generous government subsidies expanded at a feverish pace, investing €18 billion (then worth roughly $28 billion) to blanket rooftops and fields with photovoltaic panels. They briefly turned the country into the top solar market in the world.

    Then came a monumental case of sunburn. The market crashed under a wave of subsidy cuts, fears of possible forced tariff paybacks and allegations of fraud involving energy produced at night being sold as solar power to collect super-premium prices.
    Spain’s subsidies for solar were four to six times higher than those for wind. Prices charged for solar power were 12 times higher than those for fossil fuel electricity. Germany and Spain received about 75 percent of the world’s photovoltaic panel installations that year.

    Spain is not the only European country cutting solar subsidies. On July 1, Germany will cut the price paid for electricity from roof-mounted solar panels by 16 percent and that from larger solar power stations by 15 percent. France cut its solar subsidies in January by 29 percent after the installed capacity more than doubled from 105 megawatts in 2008 to 250 megawatts last year. Italy, considered by analysts the first market where solar is likely to become competitive without subsidies, is considering a gradual decrease in tariffs between 2011 and 2013.

    If individuals, families, or businesses want to install solar panels on their roofs in belief that they’ll save money, they should be permitted to do it. But they shouldn’t do it with the taxpayers’ help. If it’s an investment that will save consumers money in the long run, they won’t need a handout. If the Obamas really wanted to provide leadership, they should pay for those solar panels with their own money. While such a gesture may not be required, it would demonstrate a high level of personal commitment to the President’s policies and confidence that it’s an economically sound investment.

    Absent that, installing solar panels on the White House roof seems like political stunt. It is using taxpayer dollars to advance a political agenda.

    Such decisions are less about stimulating the economy and more about reshaping it to what Washington deems politically acceptable.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    20 Responses to White House Solar Installation Symbolic of Solar Energy Push

    1. Pingback: White House Solar Installation Symbolic of Solar Energy Push – Heritage.org (blog) « Charlotte Insurance

    2. Pingback: Obama Returns Solar Panels To Place In Sun – On White House – NPR (blog) « SolarRetailer.org

    3. Pingback: White House to get solar panels – MiamiHerald.com « Charlotte Insurance

    4. Lori Miller Pebble B says:

      Why not put those solar panels up before winter sets in? Afraid he might not be warm enough…just another grand stand tactic to make the lefties think he's concerned about global warming.

    5. yogi says:

      Solar energy is a joke and waste of money. You will never recover the cost of installation, and is highly unreliable. If the president is serious about "new" and viable energy sources all he has to do is look at natural gas. It is plentiful, we have enough in the U.S. to support ourselves for hundreds of years if we would just study the use of natural gas, the cost and number of jobs, permanent jobs, created . If someone, our government, would allow the automobile industry to finish developing highly dependable and efficient autos, we would have little to no dependency on foreign oil. Natural gas has been proven to be the most cost effective use of natural resources. What is renewable energy? Solar energy is not renewable and not cost effective! Wind turbines are not efficient or cost effective and certainly the worst for our scenery. What is more ugly than a wind turbine farm! What is the cost and overhead of "renewable" energy. Meanwhile, natural gas can be delivered right to our door with little or no cost. The idiots who dream up these costly solutions have only one thing on their mind, more money-for them- and recognition by their peers. They need to live in the trenches for a while, try to make it from payday to payday, while this ridiculous president will do everything harder for everyone. Think healthcare.

    6. Andrew, VA says:

      President George W. Bush also used solar panels. Just sayin'…

    7. Brad, Detroit, MI says:

      This is as idiotic as Obama's stunt at the Air Force base in Nevada (I believe) where he was then trying to promote his "Stimuseless" program. As I recall, he stated that the massive solar array at the base would save $1 Million dollars a year in electricity costs. That sounds pretty impressive. Until you realize that the solar array cost $100 Million to install. Sounds like a pretty good payback to me – only 100 years.

      "When you subsidize poverty and failure, you get more of the same."

      That statement is true for 'renewable' and green energy as well. If you distort the free market with government tax dollars and subsidies, you wind up making those industries less-efficient. Why try harder if the government is going to make up your losses ?

    8. Drew Page, IL says:

      If Mr. Obama really wants to impress us with the efficiency of solar panels, he should remove all other forms of electical power from the White House, leaving the solar panels as the only source of electricity. That would impress me.

    9. Pingback: Must Know Headlines 10.06.2010 — ExposeTheMedia.com

    10. Dennis Georgia says:

      Thse are paid useing tax payer monies, not personel money. All obama is doing is making a grandstand for global warming, not for the most eneomic use of our money.

      He like his other ideas are a joke.

    11. shanna says:

      Well here we go again, we the people (taxpayers) are footing the bill for solar power installation for Obama?? This is absolutely ludicrous. People (taxpayers)

      all across this once-great country are living paycheck to paycheck and this fool is

      wasting more of our money on his dead-end green scheme. I agree with yogi, natural gas is the way to go, forget all this other crap promoted by the green machine..

    12. VC Geezer, NV says:

      Solar panels currently cost approximately $2 to $3 a watt, so if you wanted to install enough to run your house, say 5 kilowatts worth, that would amount to $10,000 to $15,000 just for the panels. That does not include installation, the electrical changes, the inverter and batteries, plus the cost of periodic solar cell and battery maintenance and replacement. Figure on spending $20,000 to $30,000 total for a fully functional system. If you are currently spending $100 a month on average for electricity then the return on your investment (break even) would be 17 to 25 years. Solar power is currently not a practical solution unless you just like the idea of being off the grid and have a lot of money to burn. It definitely is not a practical substitute for natural gas or nuclear power generation.

    13. Slick - Nebraska says:

      Drew Page, IL . . . I AGREE with you. I suggest that you write an email to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu – because he undoubtably the smartest scientist in the world because he won a award . . . what was that for? – and tell him your idea!!!

      However, I wouldn't count on them taking your advice since the President turns the thermostat up as high as it will go in the Oval Office!!! Boy, he might want to go to Alaska to hunt bear with Sara Palin if he has to keep warm ONLY using solar heat . . . those bear rugs would really come in handy!!!!!

    14. Tom Georgia says:

      All cost is created when energy of some kind, including the energy of people, is used and dissipated.

      When governments subsidize the production of energy, they are paying for the cost of some part of the energy that was already used during the process of producing the energy that is being subsidized.

      For any source of energy to be a primary source, it must provide an "energy profit". The entire investment for plant and infrastructure as well as opportunity cost must be factored into the formula that is used to calculate true energy profit or loss.

      Government subsidies may be good politics but subsidies are dangerously misleading and potentially destructive as policy.

      Our governments are the most badly broken part of our country. Our federal government is the most badly broken of our governments. Yo! Congress! First, heal thyself then heal the executive branch. Leave the rest of the nation to those who may understand what they are doing. And those who do understand how bad the mess has become and how difficult it will be to clean up the mess ARE NOT ON WALL STREET NOR ARE THEY CONNECTED TO WALL STREET!

    15. pedro, georgia says:

      why dont they build a nuclear reactor next to the white house. i will send my hard earned taxed income for that

    16. lucy says:

      Great article. Halloween is near everyone. Halloween Love is around the corner. Show some love and find out more at.

      http://www.thehalloween2010.blogspot.com

    17. Tony, Idaho says:

      The plan includes solar hot water heating, which is a very good investment for a large office building like the White House.

      The use of solar electricity by the White House has nothing to do with the national cost of electricity.

      Yes, there is a taxpayer cost for symbolism that may not be covered by future energy savings. At the same time, the White House gets its lawn mowed and conducts tours and gets new rugs. America is supposed to have a nice house to show off to guests.

      Maybe the White House yard needs a moonshine still and dirt bike jumps.

    18. Drew Page, IL says:

      Tony in Idaho — You are right about solar panels not being cost justified and used primarily as symbols. I believe it is a symbol being used to sell us cap & trade. While we are being told to do that, the people behind all this nonsense will be driving their Escalades and Mercedes, winging around the country in private jets and still relying on as much electricity as they can wire into their homes and offices.

      It's always the big shots that get to keep all the stuff they are trying to talk the rest of us out of. Obamacare is the greatest thing since sliced bread, right? Then why did Congress exempt themselves, other federal workers and their union buddies from it? It's supposed to be so great for us, but not for them.

      Same thing goes for Social Security. Does anyone think for one moment that if federal employees and elected officials were required to be under Social Security that the S.S. system would be facing banruptcy? Would those in Congress and in the Oval Office have been so quick to raid S.S. funds and leave "IOUs" to provide for THEIR PENSIONS?

      All those in Congress and the administration pushing for higher taxes and the redistribution of wealth have long since figured out ways to keep their wealth secured and exempt from taxes. They want to tax your wealth, not their own.

      If Mr. Obama wants to impress me with how concerned he is for the poor, I would like to see him assign all his family's assets (savings accounts, stocks, bonds, book royalties and speaking fees to foundations to feed the hungrey and house the homeless and I want to see Reid, Pelosi and all the other tax happy liberals do the same. The national average family income is about $55,000 gross I think these politicians who want to tax the rich contact the IRS and have their annual family incomes taxed to the point that they have the same amont of take home pay as the family earning $55,000. But you never see that and you never will.

      In every socialist country from the old Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Venezula and even the leaders of Western European Socialist Democracies, the big shots still own private property, live in big houses, are chauffered around in big cars and wear $2,000 suits. Does anybody think that Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Ill or Putin live like peasants in high-rise public housing?

      For those who look up to the teachings of Karl Marx, read a biography of this miserable wretch. Marx never held a real job, he was married and had several children which were evicted from their home because Marx would not take a job to support them. Two of his children starved to death and his wife and remaining children were left to fend for themselves. Marx had a friend, Engels, on whom he relied for financial support. Engels never held a job either, but relied on his father a wealthy industrialist in England. So both Marx and Engels were non-working leeches living off a capitalist, preaching that capitalism was the problem in the world. At one point in his life, Marx came into a little bit of money, roughtly about $500., which for that time might have been equivalent to a half-year's pay. And what did the noble socialist do with his newfound wealth? Did he send it to his destitute wife and children? NO. He went on a drinking spree with his socialist friends.

      If you think I'm making this up, check it out on google. Look up Fabian Socialism. You will find it is compared to Marxian socialism. Where Marx wanted a violent overthrow of the government Fabian Socialist wanted a non-violent, gradual takeover of the government. Also read a little bit about the Cloward and Piven strategy of how to hasten the gradual transition to from capitalism to socialism in this country.

      Why doesn't our public schools teach this kind of history? They certainly don't mind teaching kids that the planet is burning up and we are killing all the cute polar bears because dad drives an SUV.

    19. solar panels may not be affordable for everyone but i assure u that it will be really good investment for any one !! thanx for sharing your blog…

    20. intruder says:

      I am not sure from where you are obtaining such information, however good topic. I need to spend a while learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for amazing information i was searching for this data for my mission.

      kingston office space

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×