Jimmy Carter’s presidential library is solar-powered now

For Jimmy Carter, it's no longer just his beloved hometown of Plains that's gone solar.

Now his presidential library has too.

Hundreds of solar panels have been installed on the roof of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta, it was announced on Tuesday morning. A news conference held on the roof of the iconic Freedom Parkway building came 38 years to the day after then-President Carter raised eyebrows by placing 32 solar panels on the roof of the White House.

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His successor, Ronald Reagan, had the panels removed, although experts now agree Carter was seriously ahead of his time with his embrace of alternative and “clean” energy sources. While Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter did not attend Tuesday’s sky high event, their grandson, Carter Center board chairman Jason Carter, did and he called it “an important personal moment” for their family.

“This is the second time in the last year that I’ve stood in front of a group of solar panels as a representative of my family,” chuckled Carter, who was also involved last winter when Jimmy Carter, 92, leased out 10 acres of his farmland for solar panels to power much of Plains. “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.”

Credit: John Spink

Credit: John Spink

In fact, the 324-panel installation is part of a federal project to provide energy conservation measures at the Carter library, the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the National Archives at Atlanta, which is located in Morrow. Installed here by Honeywell International and its locally-based subcontractor Inman Solar, the solar project is projected to replace about seven percent of the Carter Library’s power and reduce its annual energy costs by about $15,000.

"That's your money, taxpayer money," pointed out Steve Olson, facility manager at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, which is part of the federally administered Presidential Library system.

The public will not be able to visit the panel-covered roof. However, Carter Library director Dr. Meredith Evans said plans call for images of it to be displayed in the museum, close to one of the original 32 White House panels that Carter publicly unveiled on June 20, 1979.

And what does the Solar Power Enthusiast-in-Chief think of all this? When he proudly showed off the field of solar panels near his house in Plains back in February, Jimmy  Carter said he and his wife kept an eye on the panels during their frequent walks in the area.

“They’re probably glad that it’s slightly less accessible here than the one right by the house in Plains,” Jason Carter quipped about his grandfather, who’s seen photos of the rooftop panel project. “He’s pretty hands-on, and he’s excited about it.”



Meanwhile, the former first couple has a busy rest of the week ahead as they join invited friends and supporters of the Carter Center for a five-day retreat that begins Wednesday in Lake Tahoe, Calif.. The Carter Center Weekend is held annually in different locations -- last year it took place in Annapolis, Md., and included a celebration of the Carters' 70th wedding anniversary as well as a visit to the U.S. Naval Academy, which the former president graduated from in June 1946.

 RELATED: Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter mark 70th wedding anniversary

A highlight of these weekends is an auction that benefits the not-for-profit Carter Center. This year's auction takes place on Saturday, June 24, and is open to anyone through online bidding or by fax or proxy (information on the auction and bidding is available here).

Credit: Katie Archibald-Woodward

Credit: Katie Archibald-Woodward

Among the more than 150 items up for bid this year are a mahogany four-poster bed designed by President Carter and created by master furniture maker Andrew Reid; a National Geographic expedition to the Galapagos Islands; guitars signed by Elton John and Van Halen; a private concert by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame; the navy blue blazer President Carter wore at the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, and much more.

The auctions have raised more than $24 million to support the Carter Center’s work, including last year’s highest bid of $750,000 for an original Jimmy Carter oil painting.