New Orleans will soon become home to the city's first utility-scale solar project that not only harnesses the power of the sun, but stores it as well.
One of only a few like it in the United States, the project will pilot the integration of utility-scale solar generation and state-of-the-art battery storage technology while simultaneously establishing a benchmark for utility-scale solar generation performance in the New Orleans metro area.
"As part of our resource planning process, we are committed to studying and evaluating renewable energy resources that make sense for the customers and city we serve," said Charles Rice, president and CEO of Entergy New Orleans. "This project will allow us to study the feasibility of utility-scale solar here in New Orleans and also the extent to which battery storage can help compensate for the intermittency of sunlight."
On blue-sky days, the sun is at its peak between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., which is when solar panels are most efficient at converting sunlight into electrical energy. However, blue-sky days aren't always guaranteed, and the sun's peak doesn't typically coincide with customers' summer peak usage during late afternoon hours.
"Here in the South, and particularly along the Gulf Coast, cloud cover and thunderstorms can pose a problem when relying on the sun for energy," said Rice. "By combining solar panels with battery technology, we can evaluate the potential to technically and economically store and deliver solar energy to our customers when they need it most."
The 1 megawatt project, which will be built on existing company property off Chef Menteur Highway, will consist of more than 4,000 solar panels and is estimated to be in service by late 2016. Entergy New Orleans went through a competitive proposal process to identify the preferred vendor.
Every three years, Entergy New Orleans files an integrated resource plan with the New Orleans City Council that outlines how the company plans to meet customers' future power needs. The last IRP was filed in October 2012 and the next is scheduled for October 2015. In September 2014, the council adopted a resolution and order establishing a procedural schedule to consider utility-scale renewable technologies as part of Entergy New Orleans' integrated resource planning process. This pilot utility-scale solar and battery storage project will help with future integrated resource plans developed for New Orleans.
"The company has worked with the council, utility committee members, advisors and other parties to come up with a workable approach to ensure renewable resources are evaluated consistently with the 2015 IRP requirements, while still maintaining safe, reliable and affordable service for our customers," said Rice.