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Lawmakers advance renewable energy bills

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The Associated Press • June 1, 2010

BATON ROUGE — As millions of gallons of leaked oil swirl around the Gulf of Mexico and enter Louisiana’s delicate coastal wetlands, several bills that would help Louisiana harness more energy from renewable sources are winding through the state Legislature.

The measures, if passed, would help Louisiana capture energy from the Mississippi River’s currents, make it easier for residents to install solar panels on their homes and allow cities and parishes to trade in their fleets of gas guzzlers for more efficient vehicles.

The bills’ sponsors, Sen. Nick Gautreaux, D-Meaux, and Rep. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, said this year’s alternative energy bills move Louisiana further along on the path to becoming an alternative energy leader.

“Louisiana is already a leader in the oil field. We need to become a leader of alternative technology and fuels,” Gautreaux said in an interview. “Do you want your money going to overseas tyrants or do we want our money staying right here in Louisiana?”

One piece of legislation would allow the state to rent out land for the production of alternative energy, including wind, solar, geothermal and hydrokinetic energy.

Hydrokinetic power could be generated on the Mississippi River by placing lines of slowly spinning turbines at the points in the river where currents are the strongest, said Jon Guidroz, director of project development at Free Flow Power Corporation. These turbines potentially could create enough energy to power the city of New Orleans.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has granted Free Flow Power 60 preliminary permits in Louisiana to study conditions for placing turbines at points on the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. Guidroz said turbines could be installed as early as 2013 and Gautreaux’s bill would make it easier for his company to lease river bottoms to place the turbines.

This would be the first time in-stream hydrokinetic technology has been used on a commercial scale, Guidroz said.

“The U.S. has never developed its own form of renewable electricity,” Guidroz said. “We have an extraordinary river resource no one else has … This is an opportunity the United States has never had.”

Louisiana already has the most generous tax credit for residential solar and wind systems in the nation, thanks to legislation that Gautreaux pushed through the 2007 legislation session, said Stephen Shelton, executive director of the Louisiana CleanTech Network. The law gives homeowners who install solar or wind systems at their homes a 50 percent tax credit. Such credits are offered in 16 states, but the Louisiana credit is the largest, paying up to $12,500 per system. A 30 percent federal tax credit also exists, to help cover more of the cost.

In the two years the Louisiana credit has been available, 637 people have taken it, for a total of $4 million, according to Byron Henderson, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Revenue.

That law spurred the growth of Louisiana’s solar industry.

“Louisiana went from not having a solar industry to having a very robust solar industry,” Shelton said.

Two of this year’s bills are aimed at helping solar further expand in Louisiana. The first makes it easier for homeowners to install solar collectors on their homes, by barring anyone from “unreasonably restricting” the right to install the panels. The bill makes an exception for existing zoning restrictions or areas designated as historic.

Another measure tweaks legislation passed last year regarding solar energy financing districts that let local governments 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 of bankers about how the loans are secured, Foil said.

Foil said once the state is in better shape financially, he would like to introduce a bill that would extend today’s solar tax credit to businesses.

Another measure would set up a loan fund that would let the state Department of Natural Resources give money to local authorities to pay for new vehicles that use alternative fuels. Other versions of the bill included hybrids


Written by demon53

June 1, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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