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White House Solar Panels are the New Unicorns

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October 5, 2010 was an exciting day for the U.S. renewable energy industry. The Obama administration announced that in Spring 2011, it planned to install solar panels and a solar hot water heater on the roof of the White House residence.

“This project reflects President Obama’s strong commitment to U.S. leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home,” Energy Secretary Chu said in a paper statement. “Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come.”

Hooray! Optimism! A step in the right direction. “If it has anything like the effect of the White House garden, it could be a trigger for a wave of solar installations across the country and around the world,” wrote environmental activist Bill McKibben at the time.

When Spring 2011 came and went without anything new hitting the roof of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, supporters previously enthusiastic started to feel the air coming out of the balloons.

“It didn’t occur to us that they might not actually keep their promise,” McKibben said. “The date was nine months in the future, and nine months is a long time. It’s long enough to have a baby, and it’s long enough to put up a solar panel.”

The White House blamed the delay on a “competitive procurement process” to source bids – an amusing amount of red tape considering the “Globama” campaign was offering the Administration a completely-free array valued at over $107,000.

Even High Schoolers started calling out the President – with one 9th grader in late October 2011 starting a petition reminding officials about their promise. Somewhere, he’s lost all hope in government.

As we come ’round to the 2nd year anniversary of Secretary Chu’s hollow promise, ABC News decided to raise the issue once more and ask officials what the hell is going on.

Their hilarious answer? “They are in the procurement phase.” In other words, don’t expect these to go on anytime before the election. And if Obama should lose, you can bet the project will truly go up in smoke – especially considering Romney’s tenuous support of the renewable energy industry.

In the meantime, the Put Solar On It campaign should take the green checkmark away from President Obama and reignite efforts to speed up the “procurement process.” I’m sure there are more than a few solar providers out there that would bend over backwards for the opportunity.


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