Half of Plains, Georgia’s energy comes from solar panels, thanks to former President — and former farmer — Jimmy Carter. Since installing a solar plant on his former farm in 2017, Carter’s nearly 4,000 solar panels have kept the lights on for many of Plains’ 727 residents.
The company SolAmerica first approached Carter with the idea to turn his land into a solar farm. SolAmerica Energy President George Mori recently told People that this experiment is still fueling the town a few years later. On a good sunny day, the panels provide 1.3 megawatts of power, Carter told the Sierra Club soon after the panels were installed. One megawatt provides enough energy to power 400 to 900 homes.
Carter was the first president to embrace solar energy. In 1979, during the Arab oil embargo, he had 32 solar panels installed on the White House. This semi-symbolic gesture served as a reminder to ordinary citizens about the importance of conserving energy. “A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people; harnessing the power of the sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil,” Carter said at the time.
The White House has undergone a changing relationship with solar energy, as reflected by successive administrations and their attitudes. After Carter left office, President Ronald Reagan had the panels removed. President George Bush had solar panels installed on the grounds during his administration, and in 2010, President Barack Obama ordered panels be reinstalled on the White House.
Despite changing trends over time, the 95-year-old former president has remained true to his alternative energy vision. “Distributed, clean energy generation is critical to meeting growing energy needs around the world while fighting the effects of climate change,” Carter said in 2017. “I am encouraged by the tremendous progress that solar and other clean energy solutions have made in recent years and expect those trends to continue.”
Image via Baxter Slate