Louisiana power provider testing solar energy’s viability

Cleco Corporation, a power provider in Louisiana, is testing nearly every kind of renewable energy under the sun throughout its service area in order to determine which technologies are the best for its region.

The company installed solar photovoltaic panels on the roof of its service station in Iberia, La., earlier this week. The installation is just the latest in a slew of renewable power generation installations for Cleco. The company has four different solar technologies installed at its headquarters in Pinedale, said Cleco spokesperson Robbyn Cooper.

The company has thin-film solar photovoltaic, mono crystalline, poly crystalline and a tilt-mounting sun-tracking poly crystalline solar installation at its main office. The new installation in Iberia is a Mono crystalline solar photovoltaic project, but is located in a different part of the state, so the company will be able to observe differences between the amount of power produced there and the amount produced from the same type of technology in Pinedale, Cooper said.

Cleco has also installed a single wind turbine and is working with the University of Louisiana on a biomass and gasification system, Cooper said.

“These are all small projects,” Cooper said. “They are all testing the viability of different renewable energy technologies.”

The first of the test projects started in the spring, she said. It will take at least a year before Cleco will seriously examine the data. Researchers want to have a full season cycle to examine, she said.

The company recently opened a 600-megawatt solid fuels power plant that Cooper said can use biomass to produce energy, and the company is going to add a biomass research component there within the next few months, starting with wood chips.

“The goal is to find what renewable technologies work best,” she said.

Because all of the technologies are located in different areas, and especially because Cleco is testing different types of solar in different Louisiana environments, the research can be used to benefit customers.

“We can also use our findings to show homeowners interested in investing in renewable energy what would work best for them,” Cooper said.

She did not say if those suggestions and findings would lead to any additional incentives for homeowners.

Image courtesy of stpgov.org.