Lower Ninth Ward Named Site for New Emergency Solar Generator System
The site will be built thanks to a $221,375 grant from FEMA's Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Program
Power outages following a major storm or hurricane are inconvenient at best for most people, but they can spell disaster for those who rely on electricity for medical devices. Unfortunately, such outages are all too common in Louisiana, which Climate Central rates sixth in the nation for the most power outages caused by hurricanes and other severe weather events. Hurricane Ida was responsible for 30 deaths across Louisiana, and records show that 26 of those were related to the extended blackouts following the storm.
On Thursday, the City of New Orleans announced that it will design and build a solar-powered emergency backup power system at the Sanchez Multi-Service Center in the Lower Ninth Ward. The system will be paid for thanks to a $221,375 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communites (BRIC) Program.
“As a city constantly dealing with the impacts of the climate crisis, we have to use the smartest, most innovative strategies and technology available to keep our residents safe," said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “New Orleans often experiences severe weather events that strain our existing power grid. This emergency solar generator system will provide a much needed alternative source of power immediately following natural disasters.”
According to an Associated Press analysis, weather-related outages have doubled across the U.S. in the last two decades. Louisiana is one of only three states in the country that has also experienced a 50% increase in the duration of those outages. The planned solar-powered generator system, dubbed the Lower Ninth Ward Energy Grid Resilience project, will be used to support emergency response efforts during power outages following disasters.
“The hours and days after a disaster are crucial in saving lives and beginning recovery,” said Louisiana U.S. Senator Dr. Bill Cassidy. “We can’t have those in charge of recovery efforts be delayed by power outages. This investment adds another level of backup to ensure not a second is lost.”
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This is the city’s first award from the BRIC program since it was created in 2020. In 2021, the program was expanded when Congress passed the Infrastructure Investements and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“The changing climate is intensifying disasters and increasing the frequency of extreme weather around the world,” said Congressman Troy Carter, LA-02. “That means that the dangerous and disruptive power outages our community has experienced in recent years in the aftermath of natural disasters will only become increasingly frequent unless we take urgent, comprehensive action. We need to ensure that New Orleanians have the power they need and count on to stay connected, safe and healthy after a storm. The investment from FEMA’s BRIC program into a solar-powered backup energy system at the Sanchez Center in the Lower Ninth Ward is an important step towards that goal.”
This isn’t the only solar resiliency program in the city. Together New Orleans, a coalition of churches and community-based organizations across the Greater New Orleans Area has been working to build a network 85-100 of solar-powered “Neighborhood Resiliency Centers,” which they refer to as Community Lighthouses across the city. These churches and commercial buildings would have commercial-scale solar panels installed with back-up battery capacity so that when the power goes out, their lights stay on. Under Together New Orleans’ plan, every city resident would live within one mile of a community lighthouse.
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