Officials, Community Leaders Celebrate Funding for ‘Resilience Hubs’
NEW ORLEANS —New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, City Council members, and state and federal officials joined other stakeholders at a June 28 event to pledge support for the Community Lighthouse Project, which seeks to create a network of solar- and battery-powered resilience hubs at churches and community centers across south Louisiana. The gathering took place at Household of Faith church in New Orleans East.
At the event, U.S. Rep. Troy Carter announced via video link that his request for $3.8 million for the Community Lighthouse project was included by the Appropriations Subcommittee of Energy, Water, Development and Related Agencies into the final 2023 fiscal year federal appropriations bill. This federal investment will help fund the first phase of the project, which aims to create 24 lighthouses: 16 in New Orleans and eight others across south Louisiana.
“I am proud to announce that a $3.8 million-dollar federal investment for the Community Lighthouse Project has been approved by the House Appropriations Committee and is included in next year’s appropriations bill,” Carter said. “This investment will go a long way towards preparing and storm proofing our communities for the storms ahead. We know that the most dangerous time is often right after a hurricane, especially when power outages leave constituents without the ability to stay cool, store food, or stay connected. This microgrid project is an innovative, sustainable and self-sufficient program that will help our communities stay safe and healthy after a storm.”
Other recent funding commitments to the Community Lighthouse Project include a $1 million founding grant from the Greater New Orleans Foundation; $750,000 from Direct Relief, a global humanitarian aid organization; and a technical assistance grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, which named the Community Lighthouse Project as one of just 14 in the nation to receive assistance.
“The Greater New Orleans Foundation is thrilled to be the lead investor and partner on this project,” said Andy Kopplin, president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation. “Our region is all too familiar with disasters and the devastating effect they have on our communities. The Community Lighthouse Project will provide our nonprofit partners with critical tools and resources to respond faster – with the electricity they need – so they can provide food, water and supplies, and be a place or refuge for our legion’s residents in their time of greatest need.”
Together New Orleans, which conceived of the Community Lighthouse project after the prolonged grid failures across south Louisiana following Hurricane Ida in 2021, announced the locations of the 24 lighthouse sites included in the initial phase of the project. New Orleans sites include Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Broadmoor Community Church, Central Missionary Baptist Church, Community Church Unitarian, Cornerstone United Methodist, Corpus Christi-Epiphany Catholic, CrescentCare community health center, First Grace UMC, First Unitarian Universalist Church, Gentilly location (TBD), Hollygrove/Carrollton location (TBD), Household of Faith Church, pleasant Valley Baptist Church, St. Paul Lutheran (Marigny), City Park/Lakeview (TBD).
Over the next few years, the Community Lighthouse Project envisions the creation of a community-wide network of 85 to 100 resilience hubs across Louisiana, each powered by commercial-scale solar systems with back-up battery capacity, that will be able to assess need and provide assistance to surrounding neighborhoods during power outages. Construction on the first lighthouse sites is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2023, with some sites operational by the peak of the 2023 hurricane season.