Yann Brandt, solar entrepreneur and proprietor of SolarWakeup.com (if you’re not receiving his daily wrap-up of news from around the solar industry in your inbox, shame on you) did a little first-hand investigation on the array being installed on the White House, including some exclusive photos of the array he took from an adjacent hotel roof. The photos are Brandt’s; the video is courtesy of whitehouse.gov. Brandt also promises updates later this week — he’s hot on the trail to find out whose technologies and installation skills were used. Stay tuned. Here is his report:
The White House recently completed their solar installation on the roof of the First Family’s residence, and everyone in the solar industry has been wondering: What are the details behind the project? The initial and follow up media coverage included some information from a White House official with whom SolarWakeup.com was able to communicate with as well. The information we already know is that the installation features American-made solar panels. The solar industry should be excited to have panels now installed on The White House, along with the message it sends to our market.
Having now seen the solar installation first hand, we want to give you a bit more information on the project to the extent we can. It appears that somewhere between 8 and 12 modules were installed over the south facing roof between the chimney stacks with a tilt angle of about 5 degrees. Based on the number of panels, the system could be anywhere between 2kW and 4kW. From the ellipse, due to the tilt angle, solar panels can be seen (if you look really closely).
SolarWakeup.com doesn’t quite have the security clearance to see the panels from inside the protected areas so we went to the next best place. From a hotel rooftop across the street we shot some more pictures and the panels are clearly visible.
In an effort to get the behind the scenes scoop, we have been making the calls to obvious Made in the US solar manufacturers as that was the only indicator of what module was. SolarWakeup was able to get one piece of interesting information; in a White House blog video (below), a Power-One Aurora inverter is clearly visible in the background during the installation. We were unable to get a comment from Power-One official at this point with regard to the White House installation.
We spoke with or attempted to speak with spokespersons from the following panel manufacturers: 1Soltech, First Solar, Helios, Kyocera, MAGE Solar, Motech Americas, Sharp, SolarWorld USA, Suniva, SunPower, and ten K Solar. While we were not able to confirm the module used on the White House at this time, this may be due to marketing restrictions from The White House or because the panels came through distribution. Calls to some local solar contractors also yielded negative responses with regard to the contracting company. It does appear that an earlier RFP for The White House solar installation in 2010 may have included companies that were not ultimately used for the project, meaning that the project could have gone through an existing contract as an addendum or change order.
Efforts to get solar installed on The White House gained steam when Sungevity founder Danny Kennedy pushed the idea through solaronthewhitehouse.com, even building a solar-powered dog house for Bo in early 2013. This dog house exists, and I have seen it sitting in the SfunCube offices where many solar start-ups get their start and grow to be great companies like Sungevity and Mosaic.
At the end of the day, what matters is that The White House now has solar energy on the residence as well as the pool house, having been installed on the White House by both parties. Solar energy is an important part of our energy future that is supported by members of both parties by a very large margin. Now that The White House has solar, let us put solar on every Governor’s mansion in America.
For more information on the White House solar odyssey, read Associate Editor Steven Bushong’s reporting on the subject.