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UnThink Solar
a div of Impress Labs
811 Sansome St
San Francisco, CA 94111
United States

No. of Employees: 33
Phone: 415-395-0941

Memo to the President Re: Solar on the White House—It's the Jobs and It's Oprah

End of Spring, 2011

From the Desk of Solar Fred

Dear Mr. President,

As you may recall, on October 5, 2010, you and Energy Secretary Chu announced that you would be putting solar on the White House roof (again) by the Spring of 2011.

Well, as you can imagine, we all celebrated here in our little solar industry community because getting solar on the White House is the equivalent of Oprah putting the 2011 NEC Manual on her book club.

That is, like Oprah telling millions that the NEC manual is a thrilling summer read, you pointing to solar PV panels and solar hot water panels on the White House would bring attention to solar like nobody else can -- except perhaps, you know, Oprah, and a select few tween idols. (Justin Bieber, love you, dude! Lunch?)

Of course, it’s not unusual for politicians to break promises. But this is not as much of a “gotcha again” memo, but rather, a reminder memo of what keeping your solar promise means to American jobs and the suggestion that you’re just a teeny-bit behind schedule.

What Solar on the White House means to politics, the environment, polar bears, energy independence, jobs.

First of all, always remember that 94% of Americans support developing more solar. Second, according to the most recent National Solar Jobs Census from 2010 (pdf), there are 93,502 solar workers in the United States. By August of 2011, the Solar Foundation is predicting there will be an additional 24,000 net new solar jobs.

Now, those numbers are without solar on the White House. Not bad. But with solar on the roof, I’m betting solar install jobs and solar training jobs will grow even faster. How?

Because, sir, you are a leader and a trendsetter. You already know that and so do all the oil, coal, and nuclear companies who are petrified of the White House going solar. As a leader, what you use, explain, and demonstrate to the American people makes them question their old 1980’s conceptions about solar, such as it being unaffordable or unreliable. Your taking solar water heated hot showers would lead to more news and education about solar today.

For example, you could explain in a speech and through a White House website:

  • How much money the White House is saving taxpayers over the solar panel's 25 year lifetime, given Washington DC’s utility rates.
  • How much money larger solar PV and hot water systems can save businesses in various states.
  • How much money similar solar PV and hot water systems can save homeowners in various states.
  • The various ways to finance solar today, such as HELOCs, leases, PPAs, and (crossing my fingers) even PACE.

As for more jobs, your news of solar being on the White House would lead to more discussions about solar affordability and to people getting more solar quotes. More quotes would lead to more people realizing that solar is affordable in 2011 and to more solar sales. Finally, increased sales lead to more domestic, can’t-install-it-from-China solar installation jobs and related jobs.

And by the way, if demand goes up in the U.S. thanks to your leading by example, I’m confident that a lot of foreign solar companies will find it in their competitive and politically savvy hearts to build more factories in the U.S. too, creating construction and factory jobs.

So, to sum up, your putting solar on the White House is much more than symbolic, Mr. President. It really can mean starting new careers and creating more jobs. It’s sincere leadership, plus it adds to America becoming less dependent on foreign oil and other dirty, polluting, fossil fuels.

Oh, and by the way, politics aside -- it’s also the right thing to do. This summer. Make it happen. Please.

Update 6/21/11: Well, woke up and wrote this gobbly-gook blog post about keeping their solar on the White House promise. He could have kept it simple and to the point, but the DOE apparently lacks communication skills. Was there a new date of completion set? Nope. Had they even finished the procurement process? That is, had they even chosen installer(s) in the 9 months since the announcement? No. Was there even an explanation for what's taking so long? No. Might we see the panels this year? Next year? Who knows? This is a time for leadership and getting things done, not for stalling and playing politics...which also needs leadership. The only other explanation for the delay is unfortunately bureaucratic incompetence. I don't care what's on that roof, solar has been installed on millions of roofs worldwide. It ain't rocket science anymore, and this delay only serves to bolster fossil fuel lobbyist myths that solar is too complicated. Don't let them do that, Mr. President. No more excuses or poorly communicated, last minute blog posts. Get this done by Labor Day 2011.


P.S. to those reading this who are not President of the United States (or trying to unseat him in 2012), please help spread this message:

You could take a few seconds and share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and any other social networking group. You can also sign the petition here and join this Facebook group. If you have a solar blog or personal blog, you're free to copy and paste this post so long as you credit me and link back to this original post.

Thanks, and as always, UnThink Solar.

Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” advises solar companies on marketing, communications, and public relations. Contact him through UnThink Solar or follow him on Twitter @SolarFred.


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