From the community

Examining a Piece of White House History

Jesse Pyles and his son, Addis
Jesse Pyles and his son, Addis
Posted April 20, 2013, at 3:10 p.m.

Unity, Maine – April, 2013 – Jesse Pyles and his son, Addis, 2, of Unity, Maine, examined a solar panel formerly atop the White House on Saturday, April 20, on the campus of Unity College in Unity. They were enjoying a variety of Earth Week events on the campus of Unity, an environmental college that is known as America’s Environmental College.

The solar panel was once part of a solar array placed atop the White House in 1979 by former President Jimmy Carter. The solar panels were removed during the Reagan administration and placed in government storage.

In the 1990’s the panels were obtained by Unity College with the help of William Cohen, a Republican from Maine who served in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Cohen also served as Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton.

The panel examined by Pyles and his son is on permanent display at Unity College. One of the other panels from the White House solar array that came to Unity College in the 1990’s was gifted to the People of China by Unity in 2010 and is on permanent display at the “solar city” museum, Dezhou, China. Two other panels formerly atop the White House were gifted to the Smithsonian Institution and The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

Prior to reaching the end of their useful life, the panels once atop the White House heated water in the Unity College cafeteria for over a decade The Cater solar panels have now come full circle.

When President Carter unveiled the panels atop the White House, he urged the nation to expand its sources of energy to include robust development of alternative energy sources like solar. Now, 34 years later, the panels are housed by Unity College, which in the fall of 2012 became the first institution of higher learning to divest from investments in fossil fuels. The divestment movement championed by Unity College and 350.org has since blossomed to over 300 college and university campuses across the United States.

In recent years Unity College has gained national attention for a variety of achievements including: its focus on sustainability science, the leading-edge of 21st century ecological problem solving and the vanguard in the fight for the mitigation of global climate change; its ground-breaking “green” innovations such as the award-winning TerraHaus, the first student residence on a college or university campus built to the Passive House standard, the most energy efficient building standard in the world; and for being the first college in the United States to divest from investments in fossil fuels, igniting a growing national movement in higher education.

Unity College is a private college in rural Maine that provides dedicated, engaged students with a liberal arts education which emphasizes the environment and natural resources. Unity College graduates are prepared to be environmental stewards, effective leaders, and responsible citizens through active learning experiences within a supportive community.

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