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Satellite Images Reveal Solar Power Unites Republicans And Democrats Across America

President Obama had solar panels installed on top of the White House in 2010. Photo: YouTube / The White House
President Obama had solar panels installed on top of the White House in 2010. Photo: YouTube / The White House

If you’re wondering what still unites Americans across the political aisle, one surprising answer is solar power.

A solar company in California used the publicly available addresses of 1.5 million Republican and Democratic party donors and used machine learning and satellite data to survey their rooftops.

By running satellite data through an artificial intelligence-based image recognition model, they were able to determine whether or not solar panels were installed on the rooftops.

The researchers first trained the machine learning model with hundreds of thousands of images of homes, both with and without solar panels.

White House

When Ronald Regan became president in the 1980s he famously ordered that the solar panels on top of the White House, installed by his predecessor Jimmy Carter, would be removed. In 2013, president Obama reinstalled solar technology to power America’s most famous address.

During the campaign, Trump mocked Hillary Clinton for wanting to turn the US into the world’s clean energy superpower. But the new study shows that when Donald Trump becomes commander in chief today (20 January), he may want to think twice about dismissing renewable energy.

The research by California-based solar power company PowerScout focused on the top 20 solar states of the US, and found that some 3 per cent of Democratic donors and about 2.3 per cent of Republicans have installed solar panels on their rooftops.

Early Adopters

When the researchers looked at individual states they were able to draw some even more surprising conclusions. In Hawaii, for example, Republican donors have installed more solar panels than Democrats.

And in California, solar power is installed by equal amounts of Republicans and Democrats, the research shows. The data indicates that in well-established solar markets like California and Hawaii, party affiliation does not play a role in the decision to go off grid.

In states where the solar market is still up and coming, the researchers highlighted Oregon and Colorado, Democrats seem to be the early adopters.

The company behind the research is one of many new American businesses that is betting big on the global clean energy race, with a company like Tesla making international headlines with its next generation solar roofs.

Solar Race

But Europe is still well ahead of the United States in terms of solar power installed per capita. Another piece of research from PowerScout shows that Germany tops the global list of solar countries followed by a range of European countries. The US trailing far behind at 21.

And it is not just power that Europeans generate from the sun. This week, Forbes highlighted a ground-breaking new technology to come out of the European Union in the magazine’s annual ’30-Under-30’ entrepreneurs list.

Biotechnology start-up Arborea is developing a ‘BioSolar Leaf’ that mimics the way an actual leaf absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen to purify the air indoors and outdoors. The start-up is supported by the EU through its climate innovation partnership Climate-KIC, which saw over a dozen of its start-ups included in this year’s Forbes list.

So with PowerScout’s new research in mind, and the cutting-edge technologies under development in Europe, Donald Trump should perhaps consider taking a leaf out of Arborea’s lab rather than from Ronald Regan’s memoirs.

Explore some of the innovative solar start-ups supported throughout Europe by Climate-KIC.

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