White House solar power: the symbolic nature far exceeds the actual power produced

Back in 2010 the White House took the pledge to install solar panels. It took four years, but then finally they managed to get them installed. The PR machine got in overdrive again:

Obama wants to use his personal example to spur families and businesses to do more to reduce reliance on foreign energy and cut emissions blamed for global warming.

Solar panels at the White House are a really important message that solar is here, we are doing it, we can do a lot more, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a video released by the White House.

That message is clear. It is nice of course that the President want to lead by example, but how much of a dent do those panels make in the energy use of White House? How big is the desire to act on the issue that is deemed so very important?

The panels are expected to generate 6.3 kilowatts of solar power whenever the sun shines, the White House said.

That is quite some weasel wording there. This means the panels produce 6.3 KW if (and only if) the sun is shining and everything is optimal. Just to be curious, how much is that? Washington DC is not really the most sunny location. According to solarreviews.com this gives an average production of 3.4 kWh per day for a 1 kW installation.

If I understand it correctly, for a 6.3 kW installation this should be 21.42 kWh per day or 7,818 kWh per year.

Paint me unimpressed, but that is rather low. Even according to European standards. In Belgium the average household electricity use is considered 3,500 kWh per year. So this installation could provide for the average use of 2 Belgian families. In the USA the average power consumption is much higher: in 2012 this was 10,837 kWh per year (almost 30 kWh per day). It seems the White House solar panels don’t even produce enough electricity to meet the average consumption of one American household! I haven’t yet been in the White House, but I think it is safe to assume the electricity consumption of the White House will be wwwweeeellll above that of an average household. That gives a different meaning to “we can do a lot more”. That is the understatement of the year.

Pity that the expected contribution of those panels to the total energy use is not disclosed. Wouldn’t it be a great to know how much of the consumption in the White House is actually supplied by those panels, that are so badly needed to avert global warming? Then this number could inspire families and businesses… 😉


2 thoughts on “White House solar power: the symbolic nature far exceeds the actual power produced

  1. jerrygraf

    The value of the symbol depends on what they were trying to symbolize. Were they trying to symbolize how completely ineffective solar panels are at creating useful amounts of energy? Were they trying to symbolize wasteful government spending? If so, they were very successful.


    1. trustyetverify Post author

      Wise words, but of course that is not how it is brought. The media just brought it as a symbolic deed in which the president personally takes measures to cut his emissions, assuming he is doing his share to avert global warming and going towards energy independence. Until the readers get their calculator out and realize how insignificant and meaningless the gesture actually is.

      It is a pity that the information to form an own opinion about the significance of the act is not given to the public. Number and size of the panels were not disclosed. Neither is the cost of the panels and of the installation, the hidden costs to society, the significance of solar in the energy mix, the consequences of using solar power,…



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