There’s an estimate here of what proportion of the White House’s electricity consumption its newly-installed solar panels will produce. It’s not much.
However, as the article points out practical results aren’t the objective of the move:
‘‘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 released to promote the panels.
I doubt that we’re supposed to look too closely at the move:
“If the average American knew how much this cost the taxpayer, they’d realize this is not cost-effective at all,” according to the blog Climate Change Dispatch (CCD), which first pointed out that the solar arrays produced little power.
“Which is specifically why the White House refuses to release the numbers,” CCD adds. “Obama seeks to use his personal example to spur American families and businesses to do more to reduce reliance on foreign energy and cut emissions blamed for global warming.”
I think that’s the biggest problem with symbolic moves like this. They’re not particularly good symbols. If we were to emulate the president’s action we’d install solar panels to offset 2% of our electrical usage, page a lot for them, and never see much in the way of return on our investment.
My dad used to say that the single most beneficial constitutional amendment would be a prohibition against using air conditioning in Washington, DC. I’d bet that if the White House were to turn off its air conditioners, it would result in a lot more than 2% savings and would require no investment in solar panels. Economic and green, too.