Projects with Purpose
By Max Wagner, Investment Associate
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August of 2005, New Orleans native Pierre Moses was a long way from home. Moses was 19 years old at the time and had just began his sophomore year at the College of Charleston. Though he didn’t experience the wrath of the hurricane firsthand, in many ways the storm had a greater impact on his career than his college classes that year did.
“Everything changed after Katrina,” Moses said. “It was an inflection point in my life and changed the way I viewed the world. Katrina opened my eyes to a New Orleans that could be healthier, safer, and more energy efficient”
When the recovery efforts began, some viewed calls for modernizing New Orleans’ energy infrastructure as too ambitious. After all, energy efficiency and renewable energy were progressive concepts for a historic city where some buildings date back to the mid-1700s.
“I never saw progress and history as mutually exclusive. I thought the city could advance and improve the quality of life for residents while maintaining its historical significance…It’s rare for a major metropolitan city to have the opportunity to literally reconstruct its built environment.”
Once he finished college, Moses moved back to New Orleans and surrounded himself with those who shared his vision for rebuilding the city for the 21st century. He joined Brad Pitt’s Make it Right Foundation, a non-profit focused on building affordable homes for survivors of Hurricane Katrina. There, he founded a for-profit subsidiary of the Make it Right Foundation called Make it Right Solar, which became the first solar leasing company in the Southeastern United States.
Make it Right Solar focused on bringing solar energy access to storm-ravaged communities in New Orleans. Eventually, the organization expanded its reach, completing over 300 solar projects in underserved areas across the United States during a seven-year period. That was just the beginning of Moses’ career in solar development.
After moving on from Make it Right Solar, Moses got an MBA from Tulane University and eventually became President of a New Orleans startup called 127 Energy. 127 Energy focuses on financing and developing solar projects all over the U.S. and has recently partnered with Sunwealth on solar projects in Melrose, MA and Sudbury, MA.
Over the course of his career so far, Moses has seen a lot of changes in the solar industry. “When I started, we were installing 100-watt modules, now we are installing 400-watt modules, a huge leap forward in power density,” Moses said. His home state of Louisiana has seen many changes, too. In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit, there were almost 0 MWs of installed solar capacity. Today, there are over 100 MWs of installed capacity.
While most of the commercial projects Moses works on now at 127 Energy are far bigger in size than the residential projects he worked on in New Orleans, he still views the projects for Hurricane Katrina victims to be some of the most meaningful to him. This goes to show that it’s not just about how much solar is built, but about where it is built and who receives the positive impacts of clean, affordable power.
Max Wagner is an Investment Associate at Sunwealth and a senior at Northeastern University. He is a renewable energy advocate and believes that harnessing solar energy is key to combatting climate change and building an inclusive energy future.