As the city rebuilds, New Orleans has a great opportunity to start from scratch where solar energy is concerned. As the reconstruction process moves forward, the city has the ability to structurally alter the ways solar energy technologies are regulated, produced, and consumed. The city can also alter solar incentives to make the concept even more inviting.
A Solar America Cities project site and recipient of a $450,000 grant to establish solar programs, New Orleans plans to fast-forward solar technology adoption by including it into the construction and renovation of new homes and businesses and to install solar systems on city government properties. Their greenhouse gas reduction goal is to be 10% below 1998 levels by the year 2015.
The disastrous and unfortunate event of Katrina left the city in ruins. But, the spirit of the people and the love for their city turned disaster into something positive, including some eco-friendly transformations such as 39 new hybrid buses, organic farming, and fitting homes with solar panels.
Pre-Katrina the terms “green” and “renewable energy” weren’t part of the city’s vocabulary. Parking meters were the only solar powered creatures around. With tax credits, incentives, unstable energy prices and a city to build from scratch – seems the timing was perfect to change their image.
In the Lower 9th Ward, you’ll find 20 or so energy-savings homes using solar panels. Some of the panels were donated and installed free of charge. Homeowners have been thrilled to find their electric bill cut in half.
New Orleans approved an energy-efficiency program that would include installing insulation, weather stripping, and adding compact fluorescent light bulbs to improve 2,800 properties per year.
Here’s a great innovation: A program of the Alliance for Affordable Energy, New Orleans BuildSmart learning center offers free training workshops on how to build greener homes for less. They teach you everything from enhancing historic renovations to taking advantage of energy-related tax rebates. They even have a full-scale model home showcasing energy efficiency and green building products and techniques.
Where solar companies in New Orleans may have had only 3 or 4 employees a year ago, most say they’ve had to hire 10 or more new employees this year due to the boom in solar.
Once upon a time in New Orleans solar was an alien concept, now they’re ahead of the game and giving other states a run for the money!