Hello, sunshine: Obamas to use solar for White House electricity, hot water

The White House is going green, with the Obama administration’s just-announced decision to install solar panels on the roof of the president’s Pennsylvania Avenue home.

The move comes less than a month after administration officials turned away environmental activists who wanted the government to put solar panels on the White House roof — or at least accept a gift of the panels that had been installed by former President Jimmy Carter before being removed seven years later under the Reagan administration.

The announcement was made by Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Nancy Sutley, the head of the Council of Environmental Quality, during the GreenGov Symposium dedicated to finding ways to make federal, state and local governments more energy efficient.

“By installing solar panels on arguably the most famous house in the country — his residence — the president is underscoring the commitment to lead and the promise and importance of renewable energy in the United States,” Sutley said.

The solar panels will convert sunlight directly to electricity to help power the residence. A solar hot-water heater will be used to warm water used in the residence.

The announcement dovetails with other administration plans to highlight renewable energy. Later this afternoon, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are expected to discuss plans for new solar projects on public lands in California.