By now, you’ve probably heard that after initially saying "no thanks", President Barack Obama has agreed (finally!) to the reinstatement of solar panels atop the living quarters at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. They’ll be installed by the spring of 2011 and provide hot water and some electricity to the first family and staff.

It’s a huge coup for the American solar movement that will hopefully bring the kind of attention to low-impact living that Michelle Obama’s organic gardening efforts have. And although it hasn’t received the kind of press that the White House solar panel decision has, there’s news that another presidential home was recently outfitted with solar panels. Where you ask? The Maldives.

It makes perfect sense that Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed, in (somewhat premature) support of’s 10/10/10 Global Work Party, completed the installation of photovoltaic panels on his roof late last week. After all, Nasheed is most famous for leading his nation on a mission to become completely carbon neutral by 2020. (And for holding an underwater cabinet meeting.)

The Maldives, a low-lying paradise in the Indian Ocean comprised of about 1,190 islands, may be rendered inhabitable by rising sea levels and its residents forced to relocate unless drastic measures are taken to curb the effects of climate change (read more about the precarious environmental situation and eco-tourism opportunities in the Maldives here). This isn’t to say that the installation of solar panels at the White House isn’t important — it’s a hugely symbolic gesture — but in the Maldives there’s a palable sense of urgency to the whole affair. The clock truly is ticking.

The 11.5 kW solar system — it’s comprised of 50 panels donated by LG — atop Muleeaage, Nasheed’s presidential home in the Maldivian capital city of Malé, will save about $300,000 and prevent 195 tons of CO2 emissions over its lifetime. Proclaims Nasheed in an official press release:

Solar power helps combat climate change, reduces our dependency on imported oil and most importantly cuts our electricity costs. The Maldives stands at the front line of climate change and we don’t have the luxury of time to sit and wait for the rest of the world to act. We are getting to work to start the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
Adds Danny Kennedy founder of Sungevity, the California-based company that remotely designed the rooftop array at Muleeaage (and sparked the Solar on the White House campaign):
We are proud he [President Nasheed] chose Sungevity to coordinate the design of a system from halfway around the world. Saving energy and going solar are the keys to unlocking economic growth and energy security. This shows that anyone, be they world leaders, like Presidents Nasheed and Obama, or American homeowners, can easily go solar and save money. It’s that simple.
For more images of President Nasheed donning a hard hat and getting down and dirty on his own roof, head on over to the Presidency of the Maldives’ official Flickr stream. And for any questions you may have about non-presidential residential solar, I highly recommend checking out SunRun's series of home solar webinars.

Via [The New York Times]

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Muleeaage, the Maldivian White House, goes solar
News that solar panels will return to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. has generated plenty of hubbub. But did you know that climate change-fighting Maldivian President M