Carter was way ahead of his time when he decided to put solar panels on the White House on June 20, 1979. Years later, he leased 10 acres of land near his hometown in Plains, Georgia and has built a 1.3-megawatt solar farm.
Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States of America, has proved to be a pretty far-sighted man. Back in 1979, President Carter put up solar panels on the White House, a time when the concept of conservation of energy was not much-talked-about. While putting up the panels, he said, "In the year 2000 this solar water heater behind me, which is being dedicated today, will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy…. A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people."
The 32-panel system was designed and used to heat water to provide throughout the White House. Shortly after Regan took office, he ripped off the solar panels and trashed them. But that didn't dishearten Carter and now he has leased 10 acres of land near his home in Plains, Georgia and worked on a 1.3-megawatt solar farm that has been constructed on the land.
Every year, this solar power plant will supply more than 55 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy to the people living in that area and will also account for more than half the town's energy consumption. In a statement, Carter said, "Rosalynn and I are very pleased to be part of SolAmerica’s exciting solar project in Plains. Distributed, clean energy generation is critical to meeting growing energy needs around the world while fighting the effects of climate change. I am encouraged by the tremendous progress that solar and other clean energy solutions have made in recent years and expect those trends to continue.”
Fred Morse, director of Carter's solar energy program, in a conversation with Scientific American, said, "President Carter saw [solar] as a really valid energy resource, and he understood it. I mean, it is a domestic resource and it is huge. It was the symbolism of the president wanting to bring solar energy immediately into his administration."
Looking back, it seems like Carter was right about two things that he mentioned in his declaration. His panels, that were ripped out by Ronald Regan is currently on display at The Smithsonian Institute, the Carter Library, and the Solar Science and Technology Museum in Dezhou, China. And secondly, renewable energy has become one of the most important issues in the USA at present. Hence, it leaves us with no room of doubt that President Carter was way ahead of his time.
As history suggests, Carter has always been a man of action and that is evident with his proactive response with building homes with Habitat for Humanity. Carter, who is 95-year-old right now lives in his hometown of Plains with his wife in a two-bedroom home. It has been three years since Carter's solar plant has started working and it is generating 1.3 MW of power per year.