Why aren't more Federal Buildings covered with solar panels?

Solar Federal Buildings Program

Harvey Sherback

The Federal Government owns approximately 500,000 buildings, including the White House. A half million buildings; that's a lot of rooftop space. Because our Government is the country's single largest energy consumer, using 1.6% of all the power generated in our nation I recommend a "Solar Federal Buildings Program". The Program will cover as many of these rooftops as possible with solar-electric roof panels, substrates, roof-shingles and tiles.

Photovoltaic panels have no moving parts, make no noise, and create no emissions or chemical reactions. In addition, solar panels require virtually no maintenance and are guaranteed on average for 25 years. A Solar Federal Buildings Program will create a massive supply of electricity--especially during peak hours--for many decades.

Here are six essential reasons to adopt a Solar Federal Buildings Program:

1. Secure Energy Supply for Federal Operations: In 2008, the U.S. government spent $24.5 billion on fuel and electricity. A federally-owned solar-electric infrastructure would cut that bill considerably while reducing our dependence on foreign sourced fuels. This program will help protect the power supply to federal operations during brownouts, blackouts and power interruptions.

More importantly, because government owned buildings will be supplying a significant portion of their own power needs during normal operating hours, the Federal Government will place a lower burden on local energy systems, especially during times of peak demand.

2. Stimulate Green Jobs and Industries: A Solar Federal Buildings Program will stimulate the growth of America's photovoltaic industries as well as create opportunities for installer-contractors in every locality. Additionally, the manufacture of parts needed to install photovoltaic equipment such as batteries, installation brackets, wiring, inverters, terminals and connectors will stimulate the creation of many thousands of additional green jobs. This program will also help to accelerate the domestic manufacture of electric vehicles.

3. Promote American Made Plug-In Vehicles: A Federally -owned nationwide solar-electric infrastructure could supply much of the electricity needed to power the Government's new fleet of American made plug-in electric cars, vans, trucks and buses. The savings in fuel costs will help to reduce the payback time on both the Government's photovoltaic installations and their fleet of electric vehicles.

4. Save Our Fresh Water Resources: Nuclear as well as coal, oil and gas-fired hydro-electric power plants all use enormous amounts of our nation's fresh water resources. A 2000 study found that power plants were the second largest user of our fresh water resources withdrawing 136 billion gallons a day. Only agriculture uses more water on a daily basis. In contrast, photovoltaics use no water in the generation of clean, renewable electricity! Under Executive Order 13514, signed by President Obama in October 2009, government agencies must implement a host of changes including a 26% improvement in water efficiency by 2020.

5. Reduce Operating and Maintenance Costs: Many rooftop solar-electric installations actually act to insulate the building below. For example, the FedEx Corporation installed a photovoltaic system at its Oakland International Airport hub and found that the solar panels helped to reduce their heating and cooling costs. In addition, large photovoltaic installations can shade and protect a rooftop from damaging ultra-violet radiation, slowing the need for rooftop maintenance or replacement.

6. Reduce Emissions and Slowing Climate Destabilization: Our nation is the world's second largest producer of greenhouse gases. A Solar Federal Buildings Program will dramatically reduce the government's consumption of fossil fuels, and thus, the production of greenhouse gases. On June 17, 2009, The Obama Administration released a new report, "Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States", which says that it is important to act now, rather than later, to minimize the impacts of climate destabilization.

I recommend that the Federal Government fund a study to evaluate the merits of a Solar Federal Buildings Program. By expanding solar energy production at such a comprehensive level, we will grow economically, gain technologically, and preserve our precious natural resources.


Harvey Sherback
Berkeley, California

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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