The 39th President of the United States (1977-1981), Jimmy Earl Carter, was well ahead of the renewable energy curve back in 1979 when he supported the solar energy industry by installing 32 panels in the White House for water heating.
He then said:
“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 just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.”
Solar energy did become one of the fastest-growing energy industries worldwide, and nowadays, he is 94 years old and has a solar farm that is supplying 50% of all the energy used in his home town of Plains, Georgia.
He signed a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Georgia Power to expand the growth on clean, renewable energy in the state.
Mr. Carter and energy experts believe this is a small-scale effort that could hold lessons for other pockets of pastoral America in an age of climate change and political rancor.
Carter leased 10 acres of land in his hometown of Plains, Georgia, to be used as a solar farm, and the project feeds into Georgia Power’s grid and earns the former first family less than $7,000 annually.
It was completed by SolAmerica in February 2017, and every year, Carter’s farm is supplying his home and half the city’s electricity with 1.3 Mega Watts of power.
He initially had 3,852 panels installed on the farm, but later that same year he added 324 panels more, so he can supply 7% of its energy requirements.
The solar farm in Plains is expected to generate 1.3 MW of power annually, which is equal to burning about 3,600 tons of coal. Over time, that will prevent a sizable amount of greenhouse gases from being emitted into the atmosphere.
In 1977, Mr. Carter established the Department of Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and later signed the Public Utility Regulatory Act (PURPA).
He is one of the top global advocates for clean energy distribution and even at this age, his efforts have not diminished in the slightest.
Communities and states are joining the initiative in shifting to clean energy sources. New York, California, and Washington have formed the “United States Climate Alliance” after President Donald Trump announced the country would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord.
Carter says he and his wife are very happy to be part of the project, as distributed, clean energy generation is vital to meeting growing energy needs around the world while fighting the effects of climate change.
He added that he expects the trend of progress of the solar and other clean energy solutions to continue.
It is estimated that the solar panels will continue to generate massive amounts of energy if properly-maintained annually, with a target of 55 million kWh over the next 25 years. Panels are directed with powerful single-axis solar trackers towards the sunrays, which will boost energy capture and reduce labor intensity.
SolAmerica’s Executive V.P, George Mori, stated that there is a great deal of untapped potential in renewable energy in Georgia and elsewhere in the U.S. so projects like this one will encourage the next generations.
According to Mr. Carter and Sol, the project, limited in size due to what existing infrastructure could handle, is far from the first solar effort in Georgia. However, its importance is that it is among the highest-profile projects in a state where regulators have finally demanded that the predominant utility company place a greater emphasis on solar power.
Carter has been very pleased with the renewable energy efforts and restated his passion by saying:
“It really is and has been a lifelong personal exercise and commitment and passion, really, for my grandparents. So this is a great testament to their legacy.”
Solar energy is freely available, and it can supply every industrial and domestic appliance it’s supplied to.
It is especially easy to maintain the farms, so the project would offer employment to hundreds of people in the town, and would lead to reduced electricity costs that will, in turn, improve the standards of living in the area.
The world needs more people like this true American hero!