Domestic Policy

Newly Installed White House Solar Panels Will Generate Power For a Whopping Six Light Bulbs

white house solar panels

In case you had any doubt about the efficacy of government, just consider the four year struggle to get solar panels on the White House that has culminated in the breathless announcement that they will now generate the power to run all of six light bulbs.

Here’s the pivotal sentence of the announcement:

And while the energy produced by the White House panels may not be all too significant—they’ll generate an estimated 6.3 kilowatts worth of energy—the message it sends is.

Oh good another “symbolic” achievement by Obama – he’s getting great at those! Not so much at actual achievements, unfortunately:

If 6.3 kilowatts sounds like a lot of energy, it isn’t. The average home consumes 27 kilowatts of power each day. Far more than the 6.3 kilowatts that will be produced by the new solar panels adorning the White House. According to TradeWind Energy, “one 50-watt light bulb running for 20 hours will use one kilowatt-hour of electricity (50 watts x 20 hours = 1,000 watt-hours = 1 kWh).”

In other words, the White House installed enough solar panels to power six 50-watt bulbs for 20 hours each day. And if you’ve ever been inside the White House, or seen it from a distance, you’ll notice it’s lit up like a klieg light.

Given how little energy will be generated, it’s no surprise that the administration has declined to state just how much the taxpayer shelled out for the inefficient symbols of Obama’s incompetence.

Maybe we shouldn’t downplay this momentous event – generating electricity for six light bulbs is about the greatest accomplishment that Obama has fulfilled during both his terms, nay, perhaps his entire life!

UPDATE: A commenter below noted…

This article makes a number of fundamental errors in its analysis. First and foremost is the confusion between power (kilowatts or kW) and energy (kilowatt-hours or kWh).

KW is the instantaneous power, or in this case the “rated” instantaneous power of the PV array, or the most it would put out under ideal conditions. Energy is that power over a period of time. For example, 6 kW over three hours equals 18 kWh of energy.. Since Washington gets an annual average of about 5.5 hours of equivalent full sunshine on a tilted array surface, the “energy” from the array would be the “power” times the equivalent sunshine hours. Kilowatts times hours equals kilowatt-hours. There are some other factors such as temperature effects and the efficiency of converting from DC to AC, so it is easiest to use one of the web-based calculators.

Using the NREL “PVWatts” program ( for calculating energy from a PV system, the 6.3 kWp White House system system would produce about 100,000 kWh per year, which works out to roughly 27 kWh per year, which works out to roughly the average household usage quoted in the article.

This is obviously not enough to power the whole White House, but I don’t think that was the point. As for economics, the White House said the payback period was 8.3 years, which is not bad for a system with a 30 year life. That would work out to over 20 years of free energy, for those math types on the crowd.

We apologize for the error.

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