Gentilly Homeowner’s Hallelujah; Positive PosiGen Saves Money



         When Carmen Cumming saw her Entergy bill decrease from $450 to $250 she did a “Hallelujah” dance.

         Cummings used to dread opening up her Entergy bill. Heating and cooling her 2,300 sq. ft. Gentilly home cost between $350 to $450 a month. “That’s a whole lot of expense for 1 month,” she said, “especially with a mortgage payment.”

         Laid-off and on unemployment 2 years ago, Cummings said after seeing some commercials on television about New Orleans-based PosiGen Solar Solutions, a residential solar, energy efficiency and energy education provider, she was willing to give it a try.

         “Solar was the way to go for me,” Cummings, now an assistant to the CEO of a Jefferson Community Health Care Center, said. “I was impressed with PosiGen’s customer service from the beginning, on the phone and in person. I never felt forced into anything, and in the first few months I saw significant savings.”

         Cummings said it took PosiGen just 1 day to install 15 solar panels on her roof. Company reps conducted a free energy audit and evaluated her home. They found and plugged air leaks, used foam to secure cracks in the walls and in the roof, installed weather stripping at her door seals and examined her windows and AC filters.

         “It’s truly been a blessing for me,” she said. “In the first month PosiGen promised I’d see at least a 15% reduction, and I haven’t seen an Entergy bill over $250 since. I even got a bill one month for $51. I carry it with me and show people at church. I tell them it’s proof PosiGen’s solar panels work.”

         “PosiGen is the only solar company in the country that provides solar solutions to 100% of homeowners regardless of credit score or household income,” Beth Galante, PosiGen’s Vice President of Business Development and Government Relations, said. “It’s a unique business model in the country, and it’s helped us to expand.”

         Founded in 2011, PosiGen provides financial stability through solar power to more than 8,000 families in its current markets of Louisiana, New York and Connecticut, Galante said. In an effort to make energy efficient systems available to those who need them most, PosiGen’s 200 direct employees and 150 contract employees provide opportunities to leverage state and federal incentives and pair energy efficiency retrofits with solar power systems to reduce household energy consumption, generate home power and increase energy independence. About 75% of PosiGen's customers include low to moderate income families, those on fixed incomes and retirees.

         “We own the systems and lease them out to customers so they don’t have to take on the upfront expense of purchasing the system or taking out a loan,” Galante said. “We guarantee customers will save more than they pay us in the first year.”

         Many Louisiana homeowners are now stuck footing the full bill for solar panels they bought expecting to be covered by subsidies when the Louisiana Department of Revenue announced in July the state solar tax credit program had reached its limit. The program started in 2008 and was set up to help applicants recoup solar panel costs up to $12,500. In 2009, the State Legislature opened the tax credit program to solar panel leasing companies. Lessees also received a valuable tax credit, and that program funding has yet to run out. Because PosiGen doesn’t sell solar, but leases solar in Louisiana, none of its customers have been adversely affected.

         “Leasing provides a smaller credit, but it still allows homeowners to lease affordably,” Galante said.

         Cummings said she pays $60 a month for her leased solar panels in Gentilly and, when added to her Entergy bills, she’s still saving between $100 to $200 a month.

         “Our average customer saves more than $400 in the first year,” Galante said. “Solar is an energy enhancement with a separate bill, but in some low energy months customers can save so much electricity they’ll actually see a usage credit on their electricity bills.”

         PosiGen offers 20-year leases on its solar panels, and if lessees sell their homes, the new owners get to decide if they want to keep the panels or return them to the company.

         “With a 4% annual rise in energy costs, our customers see the benefits of leasing,” Galante said. “Going solar fixes energy costs for a family and creates energy bill security. When leasing with PosiGen there is no minimum credit score, no down payment, no interest and no accelerated costs. What you pay us now will be the same you’ll be paying us in 20 years.”

         Through November and December PosiGen will be celebrating Veterans Day by offering all new customers solar leases for $19.99 a month for the first 6 months, and all past and present military who lease will get a $100 cash gift card. Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, a PosiGen spokesman, will be holding a kickoff event at a local VFW hall to launch the campaign.

         PosiGen is also helping City Hall with its electricity bills by pledging to donate and install solar panels on top of the municipal building’s parking lot. “City hall consumes a lot of electricity, and the taxpayer pays the bill,” Galante said. “This is our way to give back to the City of New Orleans and help strengthen the City’s resilience.”

         PosiGen will also be installing battery backup modules on the New Orleans City Hall complex to reduce strain on the electric grid, and provide redundancy in the face of shocks and outages to critical City systems.

         PosiGen’s residential solar solutions work by its solar panels turning photons from the sun into direct current (DC) electricity. The inverter turns the direct current into alternating current (AC) for use in homes. All unused power is sent back into the electricity grid and used by the utility company.

         A PosiGen Energy Efficiency Team conducts a free energy audit of each customer’s home including window and door assessments, attic evaluations, blower door testing, thermal imaging/ infrared scanning and a combustion appliance zone test. Following the inspection, the Team provides a personalized home energy report.

         Customers then have a choice to hire PosiGen to conduct an energy efficiency upgrade, which includes air sealing and weather-stripping, duct repair and sealing, attic entrance sealing, air filter replacement, installation of compact fluorescent light bulbs, water heater insulation jacket installation and programmable smart thermostat installation.

         PosiGen insures, maintains and monitors every system it installs, Galante said.

         The process starts with a custom layout for each roof, and a professional installation team installs the solar panels. After a City inspection, a Net meter is installed. These meters count forwards and backwards tracking the amount of energy used and the excess energy the new solar system produces and sends to the grid, causing customers to earn an energy credit. The last step is activating the system, and watching the savings begin, Galante said.

 

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Big Easy Biz by Leslie T. Snadowsky

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Leslie T. Snadowsky contributes to Biz New Orleans as a video blogcaster and Biz liaison for WWL/WUPL-TV. She’s contributed to Bloomberg NewsReutersThe Times-PicayuneThe New York Post and The Dallas Morning News, and appeared on CNN’s “Nancy Grace,” and “Jane Velez Mitchell,” and Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.” She earned her BA from Newcomb College at Tulane University and her MS in Journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. As an exhibited and published rock photographer, Leslie enjoys live music and the eclectic culture of New Orleans. 

You can reach Leslie T. Snadowsky directly at Leslie@BizNewOrleans.com.

 

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