Katrina-Ravaged Neighborhood Reemerges as 'Largest Solar Housing Development in Southeast'

The former St. Thomas Housing Projects are reborn into a square mile of solar-powered homes.
The River Garden Apartments with their many angled solar panels. (Photo: SolarPowerWorldOnline.com)
Nov 10, 2012· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

The St. Thomas Housing Project in New Orleans used to be known best as a high-crime area, until Hurricane Katrina swept it it all away. But seven years after the fact, St. Thomas has been reborn as the mixed-income River Garden Apartments, which has once again gained notoriety, but this time as the "largest solar neighborhood in the Southeast."

The River Garden Apartments encompass eight blocks that cover about one square mile of New Orleans. The brightly colored homes are topped with solar panels and according to Clean Technica, the development is Louisiana’s largest solar project to date.

SolarEdge, one of the partners responsible for the development's clean energy capabilities, installed a centralized system that allows harvested energy to be monitored in real time. It also sends web-based alerts when it receives faulty feedback, allowing engineers to quickly address maintenance issues, especially important in hurricane-prone New Orleans where a solar panel damaged by gusty winds could pose an increased risk of fire.

SolarEdge reports that the residents of the River Garden Apartments should expect to save roughly $50/month in utility bills.

Micah Galy of Pontchartrain Mechanical Co., which assisted in the River Garden efforts, told Clean Technica, “We overcame many challenging issues, specifically installing modules on multiple roofs and different angles, in a safe manner and with reduced maintenance costs. 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.”

But Louisiana isn’t the only city dedicated to bringing sustainable energies to its housing developments. Oakland, CA may not have faced a natural disaster in recent years, but it has historically maintained a long-standing battle against poverty and a lack of affordable safe housing.

In order to bridge the gap between some much-needed shelter and sustainable building practices, California’s PG&E and Habitat for Humanity are currently building a 12-unit low-income housing development which will also be powered by solar energy. The project is part of PG&E’s Solar Habitat Program, which funds the full cost of solar PV systems on every Habitat-built house in the area.

Green Global USA reports that these are just a few examples of the solarizing of housing developments which not only helps to lessen their environmental impact, but can end up saving residents up to $500 a year on utilities.

If going sustainable is really our answer to reversing the damage done to our planet, then renewable energy needs to be accessible to all income levels in all markets, and the "greening" of housing developments goes a long way in getting us there.

How else would you like to see sustainable practices made accessible to all income levels? Let us know in the Comments.