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Entergy New Orleans' Solar Station - a look at the future of energy in the city?

Rodriguez says the company is responding to what customers and the city council that regulates the utility want, clean, renewable power generation.

NEW ORLEANS — NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans East has for generations built the powerful rockets that launched astronauts into space.  

Next door to where crews are now working on the Artemis Space Launch System, designed to take men and women to the Moon, Mars and beyond, lies a sprawling power plant focused on the sun.  

Entergy’s New Orleans Solar Station, also known as NOSS, sits on about 100 acres of previously undeveloped land at Michoud.  

“What we’ve been doing is dipping our toe in and now it’s like our whole leg into solar, more and more into the Entergy New Orleans area,” ENO Chief Executive Officer Deanna Rodrigue said. 

Rodriguez says the company is responding to what customers and the city council that regulates the utility want, clean, renewable power generation.  

“Now as renewables, the cost is coming down for renewables and the decision by our customers and demand by our customers to get greener, this is where we are right now.” 

The 20-megawatt plant consists of more than 70,000 solar modules that can be monitored and operated remotely.  City Council Vice President Helena Moreno says NOSS is an important part of New Orleans’ clean energy future. 

“It’s an amazing site,” Moreno said. “What was so amazing about the Michoud project was that it didn’t take very long to put together and to implement. Number two, there’s like very little maintenance that goes along with it. And, number three, there is certainly room for expansion.”  

The city council is now requiring the utility to provide power without generating any greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. NOSS is built to withstand 134 mph hurricane conditions.     

The plant can now provide enough clean energy to power more than 3,100 homes. That would offset the equivalent of more than 6,100 passenger vehicles’ emissions in one year.  

“All that we’re seeing is our storms getting stronger, less preparation for some of these major storms, they’re coming more frequently and so whatever we can do here in the city of New Orleans to mitigate climate impacts, we have to move forward with, and we have to be aggressive with it,” Moreno said.  

Jesse George from the Alliance for Affordable Energy called the NOSS facility a step in the right direction for Entergy New Orleans.  

“In a city like New Orleans and a state like Louisiana that is so vulnerable to climate change, it’s absolutely essential that we decarbonize our electric grid,” George said.  

The alliance is pushing the city and Entergy to allow smaller community-based solar gardens as well. 

“That would create a mandate for locally-produced energy which provides not only lower generation costs, but the resilience and reliability and economic and labor development that comes along with local renewable resources,” George said.

The Entergy New Orleans CEO says she’s looking at that idea.  

“It would entail constructing these local solar gardens that multiple subscribers could subscribe to if you want to take power from that garden,” Deanna Rodrigue said. “Entergy would provide bill credits for their share of the power produced.”  

Entergy wants to increase efficiency at NOSS by adding a system of backup batteries to store energy when the sun isn’t shining. Councilmember Moreno is urging the utility to also harden its transmission infrastructure, how it gets electricity to your home as it invests in renewable energy.  

“You can have all this clean power but if it can’t get through the lines, well enough, we don’t have sturdy infrastructure, if we have infrastructure that easily can fail, then who cares about your power generation because you’re still having a bunch of blackouts and you still have a bunch of power issues,” she said. 

Rodriguez said the nature of solar power generation makes the overall system more resilient.  

“If we have a storm, how do you, kind of comeback perhaps it’s through these community solar gardens, it could be through any type of the battery backup to solar. Those are the things that are going to help if we have a storm help us come back faster and more quickly in each of our communities.”  

New Orleans is also getting solar power from a massive solar farm in Washington Parish.  Tuesday, we take a trip to the Iris Solar Facility near Franklinton and hear from Entergy Louisiana CEO Phillip May on the future of renewable energy in the state. 

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