Students from Unity College in Maine join prominent environmentalist Bill McKibben next week for a road trip, carrying a very old solar hot water panel from their college campus to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Carter Era Solar Panel Returning to DC

Photo credit: Kennebec Journal

This panel was originally stationed on the White House roof under Jimmy Carter’s administration, but was later removed by Ronald Reagan, who also removed all the preexisting federal policies conducive to solar. McKibben and his non-profit organization 350.org have made this road trip part of their “Put Solar on It Campaign,” which lobbies world leaders to install solar panels to symbolize their support of renewable energy. According to McKibben, “Solar panels on the White House will remind every visitor to Washington that every roof in America should have solar panels for electricity and hot water on them.”

Bill McKibben for the Put Solar on It Campaign
Bill McKibben, photo courtesy of 350.org

President Obama has not commented on this effort to reinstall solar on his home, though Press Secretary Robert Gibbs mentioned that solar panels “had been discussed.” Whether or not President Obama actually puts panels back on the White House, however, may ultimately be beside the point. One of the students going on the tripĀ told the Kennebec Journal, “[i]t will be an exercise in social media and event planning and execution. We wanted folks who would represent the college well and really engage folks on the ground, one-on-one.”

Outreach and engagement come easily to this group. Bill McKibben was scheduled to appear last night on the Late Show with David Letterman to discuss the road trip, and 350.org already has a very active social media presence. The movement aims to instill hope and momentum toward comprehensive energy and climate legislation in the United States. Whether or not their efforts get solar panels back on the White House, awareness of renewable energy and the need for federal support will doubtless increase.