Deepwater Horizon Disaster Spurs Louisiana Lawmakers to Embrace Renewable Energy
Bayou State Embraces Solar Energy
There is nothing like an environmental disaster to focus the mind and win converts to renewable energy. While millions of gallons of leaked oil continue to spill into the Gulf of Mexico, seeping into Louisiana's fragile coastal wetlands, and damaging fisheries and the tourism industry, Louisiana lawmakers are pushing energy bills in the state legislature. If passed, the measures would help Louisiana capture energy from Mississippi River's currents, making it easier for residents to install solar panels on their homes and allow people to trade in their gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient vehicles.
The bills' sponsors said this year's alternative energy bills are moving Louisiana further along the path to becoming an alternative energy leader. One of the bills' sponsors, Senator Nick Gautreaux, said in a Bloomberg Businessweek article: "Louisiana is already a leader in the oil field. We need to become a leader of alternative technology and fuels."
If the legislation goes through, one part of the bill would allow Louisiana to rent out land for the production of alternative energy, including solar, wind, geothermal and hydrokinetic. Louisiana already has the most generous tax credit for residential solar and wind systems in the nation, according to Stephen Shelton, executive director of the Louisiana CleanTech Network: "Louisiana went from not having a solar industry to having a very robust solar industry."
Two of this year's bills are specifically aimed at helping expand solar in Louisiana. The first bill makes it easier for homeowners to install solar systems on their homes, by excluding anyone from "unreasonably restricting" the right to install the panels. However, the bill does make an exception for existing zoning restrictions or areas designated as historic.
Another measure modifies legislation passed last year regarding solar energy financing districts that allow local governments to take on debt to pay for renewable energy or energy efficiency improvements on homes. This debt would be paid back using property taxes and financed over a 2-year period. This year's bill addresses concerns from bankers on how the loans are secured. According to Rep. Franklin Foils, another one of the bills' sponsors, once Louisiana is in better financial shape, he'd like to introduce a bill that would extend today's solar tax credit to businesses.
So despite the Deepwater Horizon disaster that has threatened Louisiana's way of life, the Bayou State is still forging ahead, with high hopes of an alternative energy future.