Following a hiatus of more than 30 years since the Carter Administration, solar panels have reappeared on the roof of the White House. In 2010, the Obama Administration pledged solar panels would return to the White House and on Friday, May 9, 2014 technicians completed the installation. The White House stated that the installed solar panels are capable of producing up to about 16,272 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity a year; or about 2 percent of its yearly energy needs.

The White House is not the only Federal entity actively generating solar power. The Department of Defense (DoD) via ESTCP’s Energy and Water (EW) Program Area, began funding solar demonstrations on military installations in 2011. In total, there have been 10 demonstrations among 7 projects of various solar technologies. In addition to traditional flat panel solar panels, ESTCP has funded innovative technologies such as Solar Cogeneration of Electricity and Hot Water at DoD Installations that not only produce electricity, but also produce domestic hot water from the waste heat collected by the parabolic solar panels. In addition to the energy savings and reduced environmental impact, the DoD views the increased capability of onsite renewable power generation as a direct enhancement to each installations’ security.

ESTCP has two active projects demonstrating innovative concentrating photovoltaic solar technologies on military installations:

1MW Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) Demonstration Project for On-Site Distributed Power Generation. Jointly funded by ESTCP and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) SUNSHOT Initiative, this project is demonstrating a concentrating photovoltaic technology at Ft. Irwin in California. Anticipated to complete in 2016, this technology, if successful, will be able to provide approximately 2.43 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity annually, which will greatly contribute to Ft. Irwin’s Net-Zero goal by 2020.

Demonstration of Innovative Cost-Effective, Micro-Cell-Based, Highly Concentrated Photovoltaic (HCPV) System Energy Technology. Researchers from Rocketdyne are also demonstrating a concentrated photovoltaic technology. This demonstration is being conducted at Edwards AFB in California using 12 solar trackers on 1 acre of land and is capable of producing 200 kWh per day of electricity. This effort is anticipated to complete in late 2015.

In addition to the clear environmental and economic benefits of these solar technologies, ESTCP along with the White House and other Federal agencies, clearly see the value in reducing their reliance on the grid and greatly improving their energy security and thus security overall. These demonstrations will provide sound case studies that can be implemented across the DoD wherever solar is feasible.