River Gardens Solar Neighborhood

Year: 2011
ype of System : Solar Energy Systems
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Built Context & Scale : Urban Neighborhood
Area Served: 800,000 sq.ft
Area covered by solar panels: 36,000 sq.ft – Roofs and Parking Garages
Climate: Sub-tropical
Cost: $4 million (energy systems)
Stakeholders: HRI Property developers, State Government of Louisiana, Mage Solar INc SolarEdge Technologies
Energy Production: 569,088 KWh/ yr

01- Solar panels on the roofs.
Source: https://www.energysage.com/project/6540/pv-420-kw-river-gardens-solar-neighborhood/

Background of Case Study:
The site was originally the St.Thomas public housing project, which slowly deteriorated and became a dangerous neighborhood to live in. Redeveloped after hurricane Katrina, as a part of the HUD HOPE VI program of the Federal Government of the United States, the neighborhood is a mixed use sustainable development. With one- third of the houses subsidized for low-income residents, River gardens Solar neighborhood is currently the largest solar neighborhood located in the south-eastern US, and the largest solar project in Louisiana.

Aerial of the site

02-Site Organisation 
Source: https://www.energysage.com/project/6540/pv-420-kw-river-gardens-solar-neighborhood/

Climatic Data
New Orleans has 216 sunny days a year, with 101 clear days.  57% of the solar radiation reaches the ground. Comparing it to Pittsburgh, we can see New Orleans received 2649 hours of sunshine / year while Pittsburgh – 2021 hours of sunshine / year.
( Source: http://www.weather-and-climate.com)

System Overview

Site03- Site extent Slide9

Slide1804,05 – Areas covered by Solar Panels


06- Traditional Grid-Tied System
Source : http://cleangreenenergyzone.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/grid-tie-solar-panel.jpg



07- Modified system for River Gardens Solar Neighborhood

The project consists of 4kW & 6kW grid tie, roof-mounted PV systems along with two solar carport systems for a total of 60kW capacity installed.

Pontchartrain Mechanical Co. installed 420 KW of photovoltaic systems (SolarEdge/ MAGE) on the development’s roofs consisting of 89 residential units. The challenge was installing PV systems on multiple roofs, each with a specific configuration and mounting angle. SolarEdge’s power optimization system allowed using maximum roof space for optimum power harvesting, even in areas with partial shading or obstructions.Generating maximum power from each module, independent of type, string length or mounting angle, helped the project become successful.

power optimiser
08- Power Optimisers: SolarEdge
Source: http://www.solaredge.us/groups/us/powerbox-power-optimizer

Solar Edge Power optimization system: It is a DC/DC converter which is connected by installers to each PV module or embedded by module manufacturers, replacing the traditional solar junction box. The aim was to increase energy output from PV systems by constantly tracking the maximum power point (MPPT) of each module individually.It Monitors the performance of each module and communicate performance data to the monitoring portal for enhanced, cost-effective module-level maintenance.The MPPT per module allows for flexible installation design with multiple orientations, tilts and module types. The real time monitoring is advantageous as it sends web-based alerts on faults and under performance.

The system uses a SafeDC mechanism to increase its safety- automatically shuts down modules’ DC voltage whenever the inverter or grid power is shut down. As damaged arrays could potentially start arc faults and home fires, SolarEdge guarantees a safe installation with its inverters and power optimizers; especially important in hurricane-prone areas where flying debris resulting from high winds can damage solar installations.

(Source: http://www.solaredge.us/groups/us/powerbox-power-optimizer)


An example of the type of solar panels and cells used in the system, produced by Mage Solar Inc was:

Solar Cells solar panel detail

  • 72 cell polycrystalline
  • Solar cell size: 6” x 6”
  • Panel weight: 48 lbs
  • Flexible: Can be installed on ground or the roof
  • Modular: can be connected in series to reduce cost
  • Allows for connection to grid or can be used in off grid scenarios as well.
  • Efficiency: 15% average
  • 10 year warranty
  • Expected output (after 10 yrs.) : 80%

  09, 10- Source: https://www.energysage.com/supplier/415/mage-solar-inc/


11- Solar Panels on the Roofs
Source: https://www.energysage.com/project/6540/pv-420-kw-river-gardens-solar-neighborhood/

2- Solar roof garages

The System Installation

Source : http://www.thebluebook.com/iProView/763231/zager-global-inc/subcontractors/completed-projects/river-gardens-solar-pv-project-5859.html#http://zagerplumbingandsolar.com/solar-electric-photovoltaic-project-new-orleans-louisianna/

Policies in place for the System:
New Orleans was declared a 2007 Solar America City by the U.S.Department of Energy, which provided grants to adopt and implement solar technologies. Further, with systems like Net Metering by the State, and other Federal programs such as LIHEAP- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program enabled the funding for the project. The project was economically viable as part of the HUD HOPE VI funding assistance, apart from other tax credits and incentives provided. The developer purchased the system for the neighborhood ( with further bulk purchasing discounts provided by the manufacturers) and allowed the owners and tenants of the homes to purchase it/ lease it from the developer.

Other Resources:
-Solar Ready Buildings Planning Guide www.nrel.gov/docs/fy10osti/46078.pdf
-Solar Photovoltaic Financing: Residential Sector Deployment www.nrel.gov/docs/fy09osti/44853.pdf
-Solar Photovoltaic Financing: Deployment on Public Property by State and Local Governments www.nrel.gov/docs/fy08osti/43115.pdf
-Determining the Value of Housing Tax Credits: An Example www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/affordablehousing/training/web/lihtc/calculating/value.cfm

Other Benefits:

Micro Level :Helping Low- Income Households to save money on electricity, which is then available for better cover for other basic needs, including food, housing costs, education, and medical expenses. ( Low income households spend 15 to 20 percent of their income on energy bills)

Macro Level:

MACRO LEVEL : Broad community benefits, including local jobs, economic growth and lower rates of pollutionSolar energy systems provides significant benefits to the members of society that need them most. Incentives as stated in the policies. Helps with the Energy crisis situation.

-By Anushree Nallapaneni & Raksha Srinivasan



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