Developers are installing alternative energy systems to generate uninterrupted on-site power. In the Warehouse District in New Orleans, two historic structures and a new building made their hallways, lobbies and common areas energy self-sufficient.

Developer Erik Beelman installed solar panels on the roof of the three buildings. He said that by producing the power for the common areas, his company can save up to $7,000 a year. The tenants of the buildings still get their electricity from Entergy New Orleans.

Beelman said that the solar power systems on top of the buildings use two different types of solar panels. Traditional SunPower 215 solar panels, which measures 2 feet by 4 feet, are placed on top of one building. Then on a flat roof, Beelman installed UniSolar thin film solar modules. These are glued to the roof.

The solar panels are connected to batteries in a storage shed. These power the backup system of the three buildings. Solar power recharges the batteries during the day and used at night or during cloudy days. The solar power installation generates the needs of the buildings but it can’t feed the excess energy to the grid because of policy restrictions.

Entergy New Orleans has a net metering program that lets residential and commercial customers who generate their own power through alternative energy solutions to receive credit for their unused electricity. But there are certain areas in New Orleans that Entergy doesn’t allow net metering or interconnected generation because of safety issues. Some of the areas include the Central Business District and downtown New Orleans.

Entergy New Orleans said that most of its customers are allowed to install interconnected generation and there are around 200 clients in the city that participate in the net metering program. The utility observed that it is rare for customers to make more electricity from their alternative energy installations than they consume.

According to Beth Galante, director of Global Green USA’s New Orleans office, the only structure in the city that’s considered zero-electricity is its demonstration house in Holy Cross. It has photovoltaic solar panels, geothermal heat pump, and a vegetated roof. It has other sustainable features, such as high performance building envelope and energy efficient appliances. It uses 73 percent less energy than the average home.

Low electricity buildings are more viable in the near future. Solar power technology is fast evolving each day and it wouldn’t be long until it would be less expensive than it is at present.