One of the most eco-conscious politicians in the recent memory, Jimmy Carter created the Department of Energy and followed its recommendations: he wore sweaters, had a wood stove in his living quarters, and requested that Christmas decorations remain dark in 1979 and 1980. Calling an initiative for a 20 percent of American energy to come from solar power by the year 2000, he gave tax reductions for people who installed solar panels. To set an example, he had solar panels installed on the roof of the White House.
In an unusual setting for a president, Carter held a press conference to announce his alternative energy initiative on the West Wing roof, in front of the solar panels he had recently installed. He announced, “In the year 2000, this solar water heater behind me, which is being dedicated today, will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy, ” but it was not to be the case. Purely symbolic at best (they powered only the Navy Mess Paltry) they lasted only two years. When Reagan came to the White House, he asked the removal of the panels, and put them into storage. (Reagan also slashed the energy budget by 90%).
These panels remained in storage until a Maine College bought them and decided to gift some of them to Carter Presidential Library.