In green technology developments this week, more power to U.S. President Barack Obama—literally! He has finally fulfilled his promise to the American public, made back in 2010, to reinstall solar panels on the White House roof.
An Administration official confirmed to the press, “The White House has begun installing American-made solar panels on the first family’s residence as a part of a...retrofit that will improve the overall energy efficiency of the building…[and that will include components] such as updated building controls and variable speed fans. The project will help demonstrate that historic buildings can incorporate solar energy and energy efficiency upgrades.”
This is not the first time that a Democratic president has “gone through the roof” to demonstrate his commitment to renewable energy. In 1979, Jimmy Carter, in a pioneering move, installed solar panels on the roof of the White House. This symbolic installation was taken down in 1986 during the Reagan presidency. (Five years later, according to the Huffington Post (News - Alert), in 1991, Unity College, an environmentally centered college in Maine, acquired the panels and later installed them on their cafeteria.)
Environmentalist Bill McKibben — founder of the climate advocacy group 350.org — and several college students last month drove one of the Carter-era solar panels from Maine and asked the White House to re-install it. They were turned away. This week, McKibben cheered the apparent change of heart. “The White House did the right thing, and for the right reasons: They listened to the Americans who asked for solar on their roof, and they listened to the scientists and engineers who told them this is the path to the future,” he said in a prepared statement, adding, “It's very good to know that once again the country's most powerful address will be drawing some of that power from the sun.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also experienced some déjà vu this week, but maybe not in as positive a way. After refusing to back down from its corn ethanol blending targets, the agency made a major concession—agreeing to defer its 2013 target by four months, from Feb. 28, 2014, to June 30, 2014, while hinting that it may be forced to reduce its overall 2014 target as well.
The EPA’s final 2013 overall volumes and standards now require 16.55 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be blended into the U.S. fuel supply (a 9.74 percent blend)—a bow to automakers and consumer groups that had voiced their concerns about the possible use of E15 at the pump by drivers with older cars that had not been retrofitted to accept the fuel. While the EPA rejected out of hand the idea that consumers would be confused at the pump, the agency did acknowledge that the market probably would hit an “E10 blend wall” by 2014—meaning that a large number of vehicles would not be able to accept a higher blend such as E15.
As a consequence, the agency said, “In the rule…EPA is announcing that it will propose to use flexibilities in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) statute to reduce both the advanced biofuel and total renewable volumes in the forthcoming 2014 RFS volume requirement proposal. “
Finally, construction has begun on the largest federally owned wind farm, at the Pantex plant in Amarillo, Texas. The project, which will be built by Siemens (News - Alert), represents collaboration among the Energy Department, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, and Texas Tech University. A total of five 2.3-megawatt (MW) turbines will generate around 47 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity annually.
The wind farm is expected to supply more than 60 percent of the annual electricity used by the Pantex plant. The facility is used as the primary site for assembling, disassembling, and maintaining the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. It is one of the key weapons complex facilities for the National Nuclear Security Administration. According to the Energy Department the wind turbines are expected to be up and running in the summer of 2014.