By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

A group of environmentalists who wanted solar panels installed on the White House were able to meet with administration staffers today, but they did not get a commitment for a solar array at the first family’s residence.

The team representing the “Put Solar On It” initiative, included students from Unity College in Maine which has been using a solar array installed on the White House during the Carter Administration. The panels Jimmy Carter had installed were dismantled by the Reagan Administration, and ultimately relocated to Unity College. The Put Solar On It group carried a remnant of that array to the White House to help make their point that President Obama could again light the way.

The team’s leader, noted environmentalist and author Bill McKibben, explained the mission in a Washington Post editorial:

“… we’re carrying the panel back to the White House and asking President Obama to put it back on the roof, alongside a full array of new photovoltaic and hot-water panels. Obama has drawn much of the blame for the failure of the climate legislation, which he didn’t push aggressively; this is a chance to make at least symbolic amends,” McKibben wrote in the op-ed piece.

“Clearly, a solar panel on the White House roof won’t solve climate change — and we’d rather have strong presidential leadership on energy transformation. But given the political scene, this may be as good as we’ll get for the moment.

“The Bush administration, in fact, created an opening — it brought solar energy back to the White House, with some photovoltaic panels on a maintenance shed and a small water heating system for the “presidential spa and cabana.” But the Bush officials purposely did it without fanfare, and fanfare is exactly what we need. Those panels belong on the roof, where every visitor can see them,” McKibben wrote.

After the hour long meeting with White House officials — the President did not attend — the group issued a statement expressing their disappointment, and quoted McKibben:

“The White House said they wouldn’t take the panel and that they would continue with their deliberative process in deciding to put solar back on the roof. We passed along the wish of the tens of thousands of people that the Administration would speed up their deliberative process; in any event, we’re actually done deliberating and our supporters are ready to get to work on their own homes, schools and churches on 10/10/10.”

McKibben was referring to the tens of thousands who sent letters via the Put Solar On It campaign asking Obama, and other world leaders, to put up solar panels. The 10/10/10 event, is a worldwide “work party” initiated by the climate action group, when people and groups will take their own steps toward a greener future, including putting up solar panels on homes and buildings. More than 1,800 community events are registered with

Jean Altomere, a senior at Unity College, said she was disappointed that the White House was not prepared to more quickly decide upon and install a solar roof.

“No tears fell in the room, but things were definitely tense. The meeting was a disappointment, but I’m proud that a few students from rural Maine could make these Administration officials feel so uncomfortable. They need to know we’re not going to let them off the hook when our future is on the line,” she said.

Sungevity Solar and collaborated on drive to get solar panels on the White House.

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