The St. Thomas Housing Project had been a somewhat rundown low-income housing project before Hurricane Katrina hit, known primarily for its high crime rate. But now, the area has become the focus of several government agencies working to revitalize it through sustainable and renewable technologies.
The new housing, named River Garden Apartments, is designed as a mixed-income development covering eight blocks and around a square mile. It’s currently the largest solar neighborhood located in the southeastern US, and the largest solar project in Louisiana, because of the 420 kW of photovoltaics installed on the roofs.
“Installing PV systems on multiple roofs, each with a specific configuration and mounting angle, posed a challenge for the company,” Kathleen Zipp of Solar Power World notes. “Turning to SolarEdge’s power optimization system allowed using maximum roof space for optimum power harvesting, even in areas with partial shading or obstructions.”
The system allows the many different arrays to be monitored in real-time by using built-in performance data gathered at the module level. The system then automatically sends web-based alerts on underperforming modules and faults to allow adjustments to be made, increasing the efficiency.
The system also uses a ‘SafeDC’ mechanism to increase its safety. “Damaged arrays could potentially start arc faults and home fires,” Zipp adds. “SolarEdge guarantees a safe installation with its inverters and power optimizers. This has special importance in hurricane-prone areas where flying debris resulting from high winds can damage solar installations.”
The residents of the development will pay $0.10/kWh for electricity, leading to roughly $50 a month saved on utility bills.
“We overcame many challenging issues, specifically installing modules on multiple roofs and different angles, in a safe manner and with reduced maintenance costs,” says Micah Galy of Pontchartrain Mechanical Co. “This revitalized community is now able to sustain itself with reliable energy and will be able to stabilize their energy costs for the long term in a clean and sustainable way.”
Image Credit: SPW Solar Edge