NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Solar energy is blanketing one neighborhood even after state tax credits disappeared.
In New Orleans East, at least 2,150 homes have solar energy, and several homeowners are landing the panels at little or no initial cost.
At Mary Queen of Vietnam, the church installed a large solar system including a hot water heater panel.
"One single panel like that we don't have to use any other energy from the roof to make the water heater work and so it's a big saving to us," said Anthony Giuseppe Tran, the parish coordinator for the church.
While a hefty price tag might seem prohibitive for potential customers, especially low and moderate income families, Logan Burke with the Alliance for Affordable Energy said there's a new method that's attracting more homeowners to solar energy.
"There is an opportunity here with solar leasing, meaning in the same way you can lease a car, put little or no money down, and pay over the long term, you can do the same thing now with solar," Burke said.
Companies like PosiGen are targeting New Orleans East neighborhoods with 20-year leases on solar systems and no up-front costs. The company also provides free energy efficiency assessments.
A home with solar panels can effectively power a household off the grid on sunny days and sometimes even make money.
"Any excess energy that's been generated they can sell it back under the net metering, back to the utility company. So basically they give you a credit on your electric bill," Gorden Washington with PosiGen said.
"Absolutely heaven, my bill has dropped tremendously. I think the lowest bill I've had was about $40," said Gladys Allen Smith, who is on a fixed income.
Smith was used to electric bills between $300 and $400 a month, but now with her new solar panels she expects to save more than $1,000 this year, even with an average cost of about $65 a month for the lease of the system.
"People in neighborhoods like New Orleans East are leading in installing solar because they see that it's a pocketbook benefit for them. It's not just for the rich, it's not just for the people who are leading with their green thoughts, it's really an affordability issue," Burke said.
For Smith, creating a green environment is nice, but really it's all about the other green.
"It's about the money it made absolute positive sense to me to do this and I did and I'm so happy that I did," Smith said.
The Alliance for Affordable Energy says solar leasing is happening in other states. There are other companies in our area that offer solar panels and can help with federal tax credits, which may cover a portion of your installation investment.