An official at the White House confirmed to the Washington Post on condition of anonymity the installation was in progress as "a part of an energy retrofit that will improve the overall energy efficiency of the building."
President Obama in 2010 pledged to install solar panels to highlight his commitment to renewable energy. Obama said in a July address on energy policies it was "time to double down on renewable energy."
The Post suggested between 20 and 50 solar panels manufactured in the United States could be slated for the roof of the White House.
The newspaper said Thursday former President Jimmy Carter had 32 solar panels installed on the White House to heat the building's water in the 1970s. President Ronald Reagan removed them in 1986 but by 2003, President George W. Bush installed a solar system to heat the White House swimming pool.
Critics of Obama's energy policies raised concern about a low-carbon agenda given loan guarantees for solar company Solyndra, which filed for bankruptcy in 2011.