This Former President Built a Solar Farm to Power Half His Hometown
He's Been Going Solar Since 1979
He was the first man to install solar panels on the White House in 1979. America’s 39th president, Jimmy Carter, has always been vocal about his support of solar energy. Now, almost 40 years after leaving office, his advocacy to use green energy is still very much alive. The former President has leased ten-acres of his farmland in Plains, Georgia for the development of a 1.3 MW solar project. The capacity is equal to burning about 3,600 tons of coal! He has partnered with SolAmerica, a leading solar development and construction firm.
It is expected that the solar farm will generate 50% of the town’s electricity. It was officially announced through a 45-minute ribbon-cutting ceremony last February 2017.
Carter and His Green Legacy
Carter had been an early advocate of the renewable energy movement. During the energy crisis of the late 1970s, the former President called on Americans to consider using clean energy sources. He even offered tax benefits for those who did.
While in office, he initiated the installation of a solar hot water heater and 32 solar panels on the roof of the West Wing. The solar panels served to heat water for some of the first family’s daily activities. It was used for the cafeteria, laundry and other parts of the White House.
“In the year 2000, this solar water heater behind me, which is being dedicated today, will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy,” Carter proclaimed at the installation ceremony. He also added, “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.”
Shortly after Ronald Reagan occupied the White House, he had ordered the removal of the solar panels from the roof. He also allowed the tax credit Carter had established to lapse. But those 32 panels became part of a much bigger story. They were moved to Unity College and continued to heat water for more than a decade.
Today, just as Carter had predicted, the demand for renewables is booming. The country is now home to 1.3 million solar installations which are supplying cheap and efficient energy, and is expected to increase in the coming years. Solar also dominated the 2017 global investment in new power and attracted $160.8 billion in investment.
Some of the original panels, which Carter installed in the White House, have been displayed in different museums. One resides at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, one at the Carter Library and, one is displayed at the Solar Science and Technology Museum in China.
The Department of Energy and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) which Carter created, and the Public Utility Regulatory Act (PURPA) which he signed, have been catalysts for the advancement of renewable energy in the U.S.
Clean Energy for His Hometown
After his presidency, Carter continued his advocacy on renewables and a sustainable future, even in the absence of strong national initiatives. He and his wife, former first lady Rosalynn, have partnered withHabitat for Humanity for more than 30 years. The non-profit organization is known to use solar in numerous locations. It’s only fitting that Carter brought a solar farm to his hometown!
According to SolAmerica, they signed a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Georgia Power for the solar farm, which will generate over 55 million kW hours of clean energy. They engineered and installed the single-axis tracker solar array on Carter's property. It is expected that the project will play a big role in fueling the energy needs of the next generations.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Carter shared, "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.”
More so, Jimmy Carter’s renewable efforts didn’t stop with the solar farm. He also initiated the installation of 324 photovoltaic panels on the roof of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. It has been providing about seven percent of the library's power, reducing its utility costs by $15,000 each year.
Communities and states are also joining his initiative in shifting to clean energy sources. New York, California, and Washington have formed the “United States Climate Alliance” after President Donald Trump announced the country would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord.
“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,” Carter added. Collectively, his projects have the potential to transform local energy grids around the world and prevent a sizable amount of greenhouse gases from being emitted into our atmosphere.