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Golden, Colo., December 2, 1997 -- National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) engineers are showing off the power of photovoltaics in Washington, D.C. again this holiday season. They have installed an 8-kilowatt solar array on the Ellipse just south of the White House to help power lights on the National Christmas Tree.
The tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 4 begins Washington's 1997 Pageant of Peace, an annual holiday event that began in 1913.
The solar array generates electricity during the day by converting sunlight directly into electricity. The electricity is fed directly to the local electrical utility's power system. At night the utility powers the tree lights.
"The solar panels provide only a small part of the electricity used by the Pageant each night, but it's an excellent public demonstration of how well photovoltaics work," said NREL project coordinator John Thornton.
The exhibition raises public awareness of the U.S. Department of Energy's Million Solar Roofs Initiative announced in June by President Clinton. The initiative calls for American businesses, homeowners and governments to install 1 million solar energy systems on buildings across the U.S. by 2010.
This is the fourth year that NREL and the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy have worked with the National Park Service to provide solar power for the Pageant of Peace. The solar equipment is on loan from six companies: Ascension Technology Inc., ASE Americas Inc., Astropower Co., Evergreen Solar Inc., Omnion Power Engineering Laboratory and Solarex Corp. Ascension Technology also provided installation assistance.