If your morning commute on the San Francisco Peninsula was more turgid than usual, it's because President Barack Obama was moving about in the area. He followed an evening of fundraising in Los Altos and San Jose with a speech on energy and energy efficiency at the Walmart store in Mountain View before departing from Moffett Field and returning to Washington, D.C.

The Obama administration is pushing hard on its climate and energy initiatives. Here's Obama's speech from this morning: 

Obama announced commitments from hundreds of public and private companies and organizations including Home Depot, Ikea, Yahoo, Google, Lennar Homes and Goldman Sachs to push solar energy and energy efficiency. The commitments amount to 850 megawatts of solar power, according to a press release.

The president stressed energy efficiency in his speech, his administration having just announced two new appliance and equipment-efficiency standards covering large electric motors commonly used in industry and commercial buildings and walk-in coolers and freezers. Appliance Standards Awareness Project executive director Andrew deLaski suggested that "more than $26 billion in electric bill savings [can be] achieved by 2030 from the new standards." 

Obama's announcement also addressed increasing the billions of investment in energy efficiency for the federal building fleet; adopting the most current commercial building codes; and enabling finance for energy efficiency in multifamily housing. Obama repeated the GTM statistic that a new solar roof is installed every 4 minutes and acknowledged the climate report released earlier this week.

The Hill notes, "The clean energy push by the administration comes as the Senate is struggling to pass a bill aimed at energy efficiency itself. Possible votes on Keystone XL, natural gas exports, and the administration's carbon regulations, however, may kill the bill."

Letha Tawney, senior associate at the World Resources Institute's Charge Program, said, “WRI's research has shown time and time again that renewable energy can be the most affordable option for businesses. The cost of solar panels has dropped by 80 percent since 2008, resulting in a surge of interest from households to multinational corporations. In states like Texas, Colorado, and Minnesota, utilities are also finding that providing their customers with renewable energy is cheaper than using fossil fuels."

“We’re thrilled to see the president taking so much leadership around solar deployment,” said Erica Mackie, CEO and co-founder of GRID Alternatives, who participated in today’s presidential announcement in Mountain View. “We will continue to work with the administration to ensure that our most economically vulnerable and underserved communities are included in our nation’s transition to clean energy.”

Obama also reminded the crowd of the Mother's Day holiday in what he called a "public service announcement."

Solar on the White House: A recent history

You think you have solar permitting problems? Try putting solar panels on the White House.

After four years of permitting issues, scheduling conflicts, international conflicts, labor and union negotiations and two Secretaries of Energy -- the White House has finally done it.

There is solar power on the roof of the White House -- the official video of the long-rumored 6.3-kilowatt solar PV installation has been released and is embedded below.

Back in 2010, to illustrate the Obama administration’s commitment to renewable power, then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced a DOE demonstration project to install solar photovoltaic panels and solar hot water on the White House roof. The solar industry rallied around the symbolic effort.

I mean, how hard can it be? 

Just send a couple of Secret Service guys to Home Depot, pick up some solar panels, and have Biden start drilling into the 200-year-old roof. Boehner can do the wiring. Michelle can work on getting permits for the construction.

Anyway, 48 months later, it's a done deal that uses inverters, we suspect, from ABB Power-One and panels from SolarWorld, Suniva, SunPower, First Solar, or Solyndra.

Factoring in overhead, soft costs, and a really governmental mounting format -- the total cost to the taxpayer is approximately $647 per watt, according to my imagination.

Here's the official video of the White House roof photovoltaics:

Solar on the White House: A distant history

Here is our version.

Obama wouldn't be the first or even the second U.S. president to install solar on the roof of the White House.

Yes, President Carter installed solar on the White House and President Reagan removed the panels. But the saga runs deeper than that.

George Bush is involved, but Bill Clinton is not.

The story is told by Steven Strong, an authority on integrating renewable energy systems, especially solar, in buildings in North America. Strong's firm consults with architects on the integration of solar power and with the building industry on product development through his firm, Solar Design Associates. He has quite possibly been doing it longer than anyone else.

Amongst his many photovoltaic installation accomplishments, Strong was involved in a semi-clandestine solar mission: deploying solar in the Bush/Cheney White House compound at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. "The dialogue actually began with the prior tenant," Strong explained. "But Clinton was distracted by interns and impeachment," and Strong never heard from the Clinton people after that.

Then, nine months after the start of the W. administration, Strong visited the site and spent the entire day with the White House architect. They looked at all the potential siting opportunities, excepting the main mansion, which is "covered with spook stuff." Strong ended up helping design and install a 10-kilowatt photovoltaic system and two thermal solar systems within the compound. All the inverters had to go to the Secret Service warehouse for clearance, presumably for inspection for listening devices and explosives.

Tags: barack obama, biden, boehner, clinton, doe, energy policy, obama, obama administration, solar design associates, solar panels, steven strong, white house