Of all the U.S. presidents still alive who created a greater legacy in retirement than when in office, Jimmy Carter is probably the most prolific. Following his exit from the White House in 1980, he's spearheaded housing development around the world with the Habitat For Humanity charity, mediated disputes involving hostile leaders, and championed the cause of alternative energy sources. He engaged in these pursuits relentlessly, even when he was fighting a personal battle with cancer.
Now, Carter has created a solar farm on 10 acres of land he leased in Georgia to generate up to half the power requirements of his hometown of Plains. The project he conducted with SolAmerica was built to completion in February. Thanks to the denials of global warming on behalf of noted coal advocates, solar power isn't exactly a favorable topic to discuss among Washington circles, but Carter is undeterred about pushing towards more renewable sources.
“Distributed, clean energy generation is critical to meeting growing energy needs around the world while fighting the effects of climate change,” said Carter. “I am encouraged by the tremendous progress that solar and other clean energy solutions have made in recent years and expect those trends to continue.”
The cause was top of mind when Carter was president, right in the middle of the energy crisis, when gasoline shortages and power outages regularly became headlines. But Carter also had to deal with a sluggish economy at the time, a major talking point among his detractors. Carter only served one term in office, when his departure became a lot more impending at the height of the Iran hostage crisis. Interestingly, during his term, he made sure the White House had 32 solar panels on the roof. When Ronald Reagan took over, he made sure to have the solar panels removed and thrown into the dumpster.
Carter's solar farm boasts a capacity of 1.3 megawatts and can annually deliver more than 55 kilowatt hours of energy to Plains, which has a population of less than 700. The farm also supplies energy to the Georgia Power grid. It's also one of the better-known sites that generate alternative energy, ironically in a state that has a reputation for being very conservative.
All of Carter's achievements after serving in public office weren't even wafting through his mind when he left politics. The 39th president was 56 years old at the time and admitted he didn't have a clue what he was going to do.