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Solar Panel From Jimmy Carter's White House Winds Up in Hinesburg

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The solar panel - COURTESY OF NRG SYSTEMS
  • Courtesy Of Nrg Systems
  • The solar panel

A solar panel that president Jimmy Carter erected on the White House grounds in 1979 is now on display at the Hinesburg headquarters of NRG Systems.

The Vermont company obtained the panel nearly a decade ago, but it was only this spring that NRG hung it on a wall in the building's main meeting space.

"It's a nice little display, and it's pretty inspiring to us," said Brittany Good, the content marketing specialist at the renewable energy company. "It invigorates our mission and what we do here. Glad to have it up, finally!"

The panel was one of 32 in a roof-mounted array that heated water at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue until then-president Ronald Reagan had them removed in 1986. Unity College, an environmentally focused liberal arts school in Maine, obtained the array in 1991 and put 16 of the panels atop its cafeteria; they're still in use, according to Good.

Most solar panels nowadays are photovoltaic and convert sunlight into energy more efficiently than the solar-thermal panels Carter unveiled 39 years ago as a groundbreaking technology.

NRG began as a wind power company in 1982 but has since embraced all kinds of renewable energy, according to Good.

The company wrote to Carter to inform him about the display. The 94-year-old Georgian responded with a handwritten note, saying he was "proud of NRG." The company hung the letter next to the panel. Also on the wall are photos of Carter at the array's 1979 White House dedication. Good said Carter's speech at the event is "poignant now, because it's so hopeful." World leaders, though, have done little in the intervening decades to slow climate change.

"To know that we were so close and kind of veered off that path for a while is sad, but that's kind of what inspires us here to keep doing what we're doing," Good said. "It's not 'all hope is lost.' There's still a chance to right our wrongs and find a more sustainable path forward."

The original print version of this article was headlined "Sun Spot"

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