Jimmy’s Sunny Disposition

What a decent man, we say every time we see news of Jimmy Carter. This story is no exception, and we especially appreciate the example he is setting with this action:

PLAINS, Ga. — The solar panels — 3,852 of them — shimmered above 10 acres of Jimmy Carter’s soil where peanuts and soybeans used to grow. The panels moved almost imperceptibly with the sun. And they could power more than half of this small town, from which Mr. Carter rose from obscurity to the presidency.

Nearly 38 years after Mr. Carter installed solar panels at the White House, only to see them removed during Ronald Reagan’s administration, the former president is leasing part of his family’s farmland for a project that is both cutting edge and homespun. It is, Mr. Carter and energy experts said, a small-scale effort that could hold lessons for other pockets of pastoral America in an age of climate change and political rancor.

But Mr. Carter’s project, years in the making, has come into operation at a dizzying moment for renewable energy advocates. Although solar power consumption has more than doubled in the United States since 2013, President Trump has expressed skepticism about the costs of such energy sources, and he has pledged to revive the nation’s languishing coal industry. Yet in some of the rural areas where Mr. Trump enjoys substantial support, renewable energy projects have emerged as important economic forces.

“I hope that we’ll see a realization on the part of the new administration that one of the best ways to provide new jobs — good-paying and productive and innovative jobs — is through the search for renewable sources of energy,” Mr. Carter, 92, said in an interview at his former high school. “I haven’t seen that happen yet, but I’m still hoping for that.”

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Some of the 3,852 solar panels in a field owned by Mr. Carter in Plains. Credit Kevin D. Liles for The New York Times

Although Mr. Carter, now decades removed from the night in February 1977 when he donned a cardigan sweater and spoke of the country’s “energy problem,” remains a keen student of energy policy, the solar project is also an extension of his legacy here.

Mr. Carter has long shaped Plains, where he is known as “Mr. Jimmy,” and the Sunday school teacher’s grin — in snapshots, paintings and in caricature on Christmas ornaments and a 13-foot peanut statue — is hard to miss. The presidential seal graces welcome signs, which are illuminated, fittingly, by solar electricity, and the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site has attracted more than 1.6 million visitors since 1988…

Read the whole story here.

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