Solar Thermal: Leading by Example

Back in 1979, President Jimmy Carter put a large solar thermal system on the White House, calling on American businesses and consumers to make solar the future, not a “curiosity” or an “example of a road not taken.” Unfortunately, six years later, the panels were ripped down and government support was scaled back. The market collapsed and the solar thermal industry has been scraping by ever since.

Instead of becoming a symbol of the future, those solar thermal panels became a symbol of government inaction and missed opportunity.

If you travel over to the Reichstag building in Berlin where the German Parliament sits, you’ll find a government building that is almost entirely self-sufficient. The Reichstag building uses passive solar, combined heat and power, a geothermal heat pump, solar PV and solar thermal for almost all its energy needs. Germany also happens to be the world leader in solar PV and one of the leaders in solar thermal. A coincidence? Definitely not.

In this podcast, we’ll look at how government action can set the national tone and encourage growth of technologies like solar thermal.

First, we’ll go over the Reichstag building and take a quick tour of the many renewable energy systems being utilized.

Then, we’ll travel to Munich and speak with Gerhard Stryi-Hipp, Head of Energy Policy and Group Leader of Solar Thermal Systems at the Fraunhofer Institute about what Europe can do to continue building its solar thermal industry.

Finally, we’ll meet up with Les Nelson, Chair of the Solar Thermal Systems Division at the Solar Energy Industries Association, to chat about how we can get the U.S. solar thermal market moving again. Things are coming around, but there is a still a lot of ground to make up after such a long period of inaction.

This week’s podcast is sponsored by Inovateus Solar.

Inside Renewable Energy is a weekly audio news program featuring stories and interviews on all the latest developments in the renewable energy industries.


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I am a reporter with, a blog published by the Center for American Progress. I am former editor and producer for, where I contributed stories and hosted the Inside Renewable Energy Podcast. Keep in touch through twitter! My profile name is: Stphn_Lacey

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