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… 😉