U.S. Energy secretary to tour latest solar microgrid project in LaPlace

Project marks seventh ‘Community Lighthouse’ to come online

By: - November 15, 2023 2:33 pm
Portrait of U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. (Photo credit: U.S. DOE)

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will visit Louisiana to mark the completion of the latest solar microgrid project at a church in LaPlace. 

Together Louisiana, a nonprofit coalition of churches and community groups, will host the event at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at New Wine Christian Fellowship with a tour of the facility for Granholm and members of the news media, a ribbon cutting and Department of Energy workshops after lunch. 

The church is the seventh and largest solar microgrid Together Louisiana has built as part of its Community Lighthouse Project. The group has been installing solar power with battery storage systems at centralized locations such as churches, health clinics and community centers in underserved neighborhoods. 

The “lighthouses” serve as places of refuge for nearby residents to access electricity, refrigeration, shelter and other basic needs during storm-related blackouts and other disasters. Each features user-friendly load management systems that allow the occupants to control the flow of power. 

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Unlike typical backup generators that aren’t designed for continuous use over several days and rely on fuel that is often unavailable during disasters, the solar-powered lighthouses can provide electricity virtually indefinitely. The load management systems allow the lighthouses to disconnect from the main power grid and go into backup mode, so users can regulate power to non-essential devices on cloudy days and ensure the batteries maintain adequate charge levels for nighttime use.

The solar power systems are also used as primary energy sources at all times — not just during blackouts. This allows the facilities to save money on energy consumption year-round. 

Together Louisiana ramped up the project after so many backup generators broke down or ran out of fuel during Hurricane Ida. The LaPlace area was one of the hardest hit in the August 2021 storm, with power restoration taking weeks.

The microgrid initiative is funded through donations and public grants. Last month, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $250 million federal investment in Louisiana that will support a major expansion of resiliency hubs modeled after the Community Lighthouse Project.

Those interested in attending can register at togetherla.org/nov16.


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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots to 1997 when, at age 13, he built a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. Since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune and worked on staff at WAFB/CBS, the Sun Herald and the Enterprise-Journal, winning awards from the SPJ, Associated Press, Mississippi Press Association and McClatchy. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Muller is a New Orleans native, Jesuit High School alumnus, University of New Orleans alumnus and a U.S. Army veteran and former paratrooper. He lives in Southeast Louisiana with his two sons and wife.