Building Green

Make It Right Solar’s director Pierre Moses answers your questions

Make It Right Solar’s director Pierre Moses took questions from our Facebook fans in honor of National Solar Day 2012. You can see Pierre’s answers on Facebook here: Or read on below. And don’t forget to watch our video celebrating Solar Day 2012!

Jennifer E Francis asked: I want to make my book bus’ auxiliary run on solar and I’d love your suggestions.

Pierre says: It is possible to run a car on solar power only, but you would need a lot of surface area on the car to produce enough energy to power a full size vehicle.  A much more common strategy is for a homeowner to install solar panels on their home and charge their electric vehicle with free power from the sun!

Christina Harter asked: How many solar panels would be needed to use as an alternate power source during power outtages?

Pierre says: Having power during an outage is much more dependant on the amount of energy storage capacity rather than the energy producing capacity. In other words, a solar system would need a battery bank that could handle crucial electrical loads within a home during an outage i.e. refrigerator, a fan, a few lights, etc. Although solar energy could be used during the day to provide a source of energy during an outage, you would certainly need batteries to have any source of power during the nighttime hours. Both solar panels and battery banks are scalable so depending on the electrical load needs during an outage, a solar array and battery backup system can be designed to match your needs.

Beau Johnson asked: Is there a specific contractor you would recommend for solar panel installation?

Pierre says: There are numerous contractors that I would recommend in the Louisiana market, so I suggest visiting and clicking on the ‘about’ tab to view which local contractors are members of the Gulf States Renewable Energy Industries Association. I always recommend engaging 2 or 3 different firms when deciding which company to use for your solar energy needs. Make sure to ask the right questions including but not limited to references, licenses, prior work, workmanship guarantees and energy production estimates.

Laurie Wiegler asked: How is Make it Right working with solar power, and does the organization have plans to spread solar power elsewhere in NOLA?

Pierre says: Make It Right deploys solar power on every one of our houses in the Lower 9th Ward, as well as every project that we’ve worked on outside of the 9th ward.  Make It Right Solar is our solar energy development arm that works to creatively include solar power within a variety of applications and markets. Locally, Make It Right Solar has also financed and developed solar energy projects in Central City, Broadmoor, Gentilly and Covington. We are early adopters and firm believers in the local movement that solar energy should be accessible and affordable for all.

Robin S. Knox asked: I have read that PV panels require water cooling systems. Is that true?

Pierre says: No. Solar PV systems do not require water cooling systems. Typically, the panels are installed several inches above a roof allowing sufficient air flow underneath the array to keep the solar modules cool.

Nicole Green asked: Where can you go to get training to learn solar panel installation?

Pierre says: Make It Right Solar has held training courses on site in the past, but we don’t have one scheduled for the near future. If you’re in the New Orleans area, here are a few names of local training partners that can provide a great solar energy education: Ontility (August 20-24th in New Orleans), Louisiana Cleantech Network (just held a class in May, but check back with their website soon for upcoming dates) and Baton Rouge Community College holds classes as well.

Toran Rai asked: Is solar capable of producing enough energy to substitute conventional energy?

Pierre says: Solar energy is a supplemental power source and is typically used in parallel with standard grid energy. This means that your will use energy from the sun when its available, but the home will then pull regular
electricity from the grid if the solar energy is not sufficient at any point, like during nighttime hours. The switch back and forth from solar to standard power is seamless and automatic so there is not any manual action
that is needed. Although solar energy is efficient, affordable, and an inexhaustible fuel source, the ideal energy solution for any community should be a mix of different sources. The US should be heading towards an
energy mix that uses the benefits of a variety of energy sources including solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, and limited fossil fuels like natural gas. ‘Smart grids’ are needed to monitor and operate an energy grid using all of these different energy sources that will supply more energy than we need while avoiding pollution and depleting the earth’s limited fossil fuel resources.

Trey Morgan asked: What is the useful life of the panels?

Pierre says: Solar panel manufacturers typically warranty the panels up to 25 years. The warranty states that the panel will produce a minimum of 80% of its original, day-one output after 25 years of operation. This being said, solar panels are made to last and will continue to produce power for 40+ years after they are installed.

Trey Morgan asked: At what point in their life do you re cover your costs?

Pierre says: The breakeven point on a solar energy investment depends on many variables including the cost of installation, incentives and rebates available, and kWh rates where the system is installed. Please visit to view the incentives available in your area. Typically, solar PV systems break even in approx. 5-7 years although it can be quicker in states like Louisiana where we enjoy an aggressive state tax credit.

Rick Parson asked: What is net-metering?

Pierre says: Net Metering is the process of selling excess solar power back to the utility provider.  Net Metering allows for a zero waste solution where every kWh produced by the sun is either used within the facility on site or is automatically sold back to the utility company. The utility provider will pay either retail rates or avoided costs for the excess power so please check with your local utility provider and ask for a copy of their Net Metering agreement.

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