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Community Development

There are communities and neighborhoods all across the country attempting to solve energy and environmental dilemmas, and some are managing to be very successful in their efforts.

Ranging from “green roofs”, roofs with foliage and gardens on top to diminish energy and heat absorption, or from communal energy pools which people can buy into a reap the benefits, there is an increasing trend in large-scale residential energy projects.

As a result of the devastation from Hurricane Katrina, a rundown low-income housing project has been the focus of several government agencies working to revitalize it through sustainable and renewable technologies. Formerly the St. Thomas Housing Project, the River Garden Apartments have been rebuilt and updated to become the largest solar neighborhood located in the southeastern United States.

Further, it is the largest solar project in Louisiana due to the 420 kW of photovoltaic cells installed on the roofs. It is designed as a mixed-income development, which will aid the remaining pre-Katrina residents to continue to live there, and covers eight blocks, or around a square mile.

The apartments are all fitted with photovoltaic cells on the roofs, and each apartment has a specific configuration and mounting angle. This initially posed a challenge for SolarEdge, the photovoltaic installation company, but its “power optimization system” allowed using maximum roof space for optimum power harvesting, even in areas with partial shading and/or obstructions.

Additionally, the company has guaranteed safe installation and a “SafeDC” mechanism with its inverters and power optimizers, an important aspect for hurricane-prone areas. Finally, the residents of the development will pay $0.10/kWh for electricity, resulting in roughly $50 a month saved on utility bills.

Ultimately, the community-based energy program is next in the line of innovative strategies to combat not only rising energy costs, but also to offset the carbon footprint and environmental impact of the neighborhood.

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