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White House puts back its solar panels

United Kingdom
Financial Times
Anna Fifield in Washington and Ed Crooks in New York

With his climate change strategy in tatters, President Barack Obama will take the symbolic step of reinstalling solar panels on the White House residence in an attempt to show he is committed to renewable energy, even if Congress is not.

Solar panels and a solar water heater will be installed on the roof of Mr Obama’s residence, part of a Department of Energy demonstration project promoting US technologies.

“Around the world the White House is a symbol of freedom and democracy. It should also be a symbol of American commitment to a clean energy future,” Steven Chu, the energy secretary, told a renewable energy conference on Tuesday organised by the administration. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had them up there.”

Jimmy Carter installed solar panels at the White House when he was president in 1979, during the oil crisis that followed the Iranian revolution, but Ronald Reagan took them off in 1986 during “roofing repairs”. With no fanfare, George W. Bush installed three solar systems on the White House grounds but not on the residence.

The energy department said it would begin a “competitive procurement process” to choose a company to install the solar panels and water heater next year. The selection criteria would include the technical proposal, proposed price and past performance, with criteria including how well they showcase American technology, the White House said.

The interior department on Tuesday approved the two large-scale solar energy plants to be built in the Californian desert.

The move gives American companies access to 6,800 acres of public lands, with grants to build and operate solar plants that could produce up to 754 megawatts of renewable energy, enough to power at least a quarter-million homes.

The department estimated the projects would create almost 1,000 new jobs.

The 709 megawatt Imperial Valley project will be one of the world’s largest solar plants, and is expected to start delivering power to the grid by the end of next year. It will be developed by Tessera Solar, a Houston-based company controlled by NTR, the Irish renewable energy group.

The projects are part of the Obama administration’s efforts to promote green energy.

When he came into office, Mr Obama had high hopes of passing climate change legislation that would put a cap on the US’s carbon emissions from fossil fuels and encourage the use of clean energy technologies such as wind, solar and nuclear power.

But these hopes have been dashed amid concerns that a “cap and trade” system would hurt already-ailing companies, with political opposition making it difficult to pass even a simple renewable energy bill.

These efforts have now been put on the legislative back-burner, although Mr Obama has tried to keep the hopes alive with frequent visits to high-tech battery plants and wind turbine manufacturers, saying they represent the future of job creation.

Mr Obama, in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine published this month, said his administration would now pursue a piecemeal approach to promoting clean energy.

“We’re going to stay on this because it is good for our economy, it’s good for our national security, and, ultimately, it’s good for our environment,” Mr Obama told the magazine. But this would be achieved in “chunks” rather than by passing “comprehensive omnibus legislation,” he said.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.


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