Solar power rates are among the best in the so-called “Pelican State,” although major installations are on the verge of nearly tripling the current rate of 200 megawatts of installed solar power.
Ranked 38th in the nation according to the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), Louisiana has a relatively low electricity rate of 14.10 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to 11.69 a year ago, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). However, the state’s per capita energy consumption is the second highest in the country due to energy-intensive chemical, oil and natural gas industries, as well as high demand for air conditioning during its hot and humid summers. According to the EIA, Louisiana is the third largest producer of natural gas in the nation, and the second largest consumer of natural gas per capita after Alaska, with natural gas accounting for 65% of the state’s electricity generation.
Louisiana has lagged behind in the adoption of solar power, to the point that it provides only 0.0043% of the state’s electricity, or enough to power 20,352 homes, according to SEIA. However, several large solar projects are currently under construction, such as Ventress Solar, which will be the largest in the state with 345 MW. The Bayou Gallion Solar Project is also under construction, which will add another 98 MW.
Small-scale, customer-installed solar installations have been slow to grow in Louisiana, although they account for about three-fifths of the state’s total solar power generation, according to the EIA.
No Renewable Portfolio Standard
Louisiana is one of 13 US states that do not have a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). In 2010, the Louisiana Public Service Commission concluded after a renewable energy pilot program that the state did not need an RPS. Fortunately, the state has other policies in place to encourage renewable energy use and energy efficiency, such as voluntary utility efficiency programs, energy standards for public buildings, net metering, property tax rebates and home energy credits.
Louisiana allows net metering for small-scale installations up to 25 kW for residential systems and up to 300 kW for commercial and agricultural systems. Total grid-connected consumer net metering capacity is limited to 0.5% of each utility’s monthly retail peak power demand load, and several large utilities in the state have already reached their net metering limit limits.
In 2019, the rules for distributed generation were revised in Louisiana. Those who had distributed generation installed before December 31, 2019, were secured for their current net metering billing for 15 years. These customers pay the retail rate for the difference between the power they buy from the power company and the power they feed into the grid. Residents who have installed distributed generation after December 31, 2019 are billed through a payment mechanism known as bi-channel billing. Each month, these customers pay the applicable retail rate for electricity purchased from the utility and receive the full retail price for the electricity they produce and use behind the meter in their home or business. Any excess energy is credited to the customer’s bill at the current “cost saved” rate.
Beginning in 2020, the Louisiana Public Utilities Commission will reduce by two-thirds the fees utility companies must pay new net-metered customers for the extra electricity they put on the grid from their rooftop solar panels.
Home Energy Loan Program
Louisiana’s Home Energy Loan Program (HELP) provides low-interest loans to improve home energy efficiency and/or install solar panels. Loans are up to a maximum of $12,000, and participants must go through an underwriting process.
property tax incentives and solar rights
The state of Louisiana exempts solar power systems from being included in property appraisals. The state also enacted a Solar Right of Way law (HB 751) in 2010 that prohibits entities from requiring the homeowner to install solar generating equipment. This can include communities of homeowners, although some exceptions are historic districts, historic preservation areas, and certain monuments.
Community Solar Power in New Orleans
The City of New Orleans has its own community solar power program. In collaboration with Madison Energy Investments, a developer and operator of distributed generation assets, the city will build a series of solar farms that interested residents will own and receive credits on their electric bills for their share of the energy produced. The City of New Orleans has approval rights over venues to ensure they match the city’s disadvantaged neighborhoods. The city is also exploring municipally owned sites, such as rooftops and vacant land, to develop projects. The facilities have a maximum capacity of 2 MW and projects must have at least three 1 kW customers.
The LA3 West Baton Rouge Solar Facility, in West Baton Rouge, is currently the largest operating facility in the state. With 74.5 MW, the solar plant generates enough electricity to supply approximately 8,000 homes. Developed by DEPCOM, the project went online in 2020 and is currently owned by Helios Infrastructure. Power from the ground-mounted project is sold to Entergy Louisiana through a power purchase agreement.
Louisiana corporate users include Brookfield Properties Retail, Walmart and Ebitha Brewing, and Brookfield’s 1.3 MW Mall of Louisiana solar project represents one of the largest corporate facilities in the state.
However, these projects will soon be dwarfed by the aforementioned Ventress Solar Park, which is being built by Lightsource BP and is expected to be operational by 2023. The electricity generated will be sold to McDonald’s Corporation and eBay under a power purchase agreement. long term. Louisiana-based Empirical Solutions has been selected as the EPC for the project’s substation and switchyard. The project has created approximately 400 construction jobs and will provide an estimated $30 million in incentives to Pointe Coupé Parish over its lifetime.
“In addition to improving the health and energy security of American communities, large-scale solar projects help strengthen local economies. As the owners and operators of Ventrace Solar Farm, we look forward to providing economic benefits to Pointe Coupé Parish— We look forward to fostering a long-term community partnership with BP,” said Kevin Smith, CEO of the Americas for Lightsource BP.
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