Archive for October, 2012

“Solar Powering Your Community” Workshops Blazed Through the Southeast in September

Posted on: October 9th, 2012 by shannon No Comments


Despite rainy weather, talk of solar power energized over 130 workshop participants throughout the Southeast last month.  N.C. Solar Center senior policy analysts Justin Barnes, Amy Heinemann, and Brian Lips worked closely with our partners of the Sunshot Solar Outreach Partnership (SolarOPs)to pull off successful half-day “Solar Powering Your Community” workshops in Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C.; Atlanta, G.A.; and Columbia, S.C.  All of the workshops provided participants with an overview of policies and regulations that impact solar adoption (for better or worse), and an overview of options for financing public- and private-sector solar projects.

Our local expert panelists relate their solar experiences at the Charlotte workshop. September 21, 2012

The sessions also featured some excellent local guest speakers who provided their perspectives on what it takes to get solar done on public property.  In Raleigh, Julian Prosser, Assistant City Manager with the City of Raleigh, described the City of Oaks’ experience with solar and PV installations. Guest speakers at the Charlotte workshop included Rich Deming of the Centralina Council of Government, Dan Ziehm with Gaston County, Rob Phocas with the City of Charlotte, Stephen Hunting with the Parker Poe law firm, and Eric Blomendale with Dakota Energy Solutions.

Our guest speakers did a phenomenal job. They imparted good, practical advice about how to go solar, with an emphasis on describing obstacles that they experienced and how these obstacles were overcome.  That kind of peer-to-peer exchange of information is incredibly valuable.” -Justin Barnes.

In addition to the Southeast workshops, the SolarOPs team held additional workshops in Richmond, VA;  Kansas City, MO; Cincinnati and Dayton, OH; Indianapolis, IN, St. Louis, MO, and Dubuque, IA.  It was definitely a busy month, and for anyone that missed these great events, stay tuned! The Solar OPs Team will be conducting a variety of additional outreach and assistance activities during the remainder of 2012 and 2013.

*Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative, SolarOPs achieves its goals through a mix of educational workshops, peer-to-peer sharing opportunities, research-based reports, and online resources. To perform the work of SolarOPs, DOE selected teams led by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability USA. The teams include the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA); Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. (IREC); North Carolina Solar Center (NCSC); Meister Consultants Group, Inc. (MCG); The Solar Foundation (TSF); American Planning Association (APA); and National Association of Regional Councils (NARC).

The goal of the SolarOPs is to help local governments take a comprehensive approach to solar energy deployment by:  Conducting outreach and sharing best practices for increasing solar energy use with thousands of local governments across the nation;  working in partnership with industry experts and national membership associations to enable local governments across the United States to expand their local solar markets; and providing actionable information in relevant areas, such as solar policies and regulations, financial incentives, workforce training, and utility and community engagement.


Certificate in Renewable Energy Management Groups Produce First-Rate Projects

Posted on: October 9th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

The N.C. Solar Center completed another successful round of the Certificate in Renewable Energy Management (CREM) program. CREM is the only program in the country that is especially designed for the non-installer that covers trends in renewable energy technology, federal and local policy, and financing strategies. Professionals who have attended the program come from diverse backgrounds – from engineering to marketing, and banking to project development.  The class, which typically runs for three months, requires participants attend 36-plus hours of online and onsite classes, complete the short quizzes and submit and present a group project. Each group project is comprised of professionals from different disciplines to work together and come up with a project that uses the skills and knowledge gained during the course of the program.

“For me, a particular highlight was viewing the class projects undertaken and presented by the students taking the program,” said Forrest Milder, a Boston-based lawyer who taught the course Practical Aspects of Renewable Energy Project Development, and was also a former chair of the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge.   “The students obviously put a first-class effort into their work and treated the assignment like a true business opportunity.  They interviewed potential off-takers, developers, accountants and lawyers, and some of the groups produced a classy work product that looked like it was done by a seasoned professional.   You could tell that these groups put a lot of work into it their presentation and it didn’t look like a mere class project.”

Projects have included feasibility studies, a study on community solar’s perils and promise, and proposals for clean energy systems in manufacturing. The fall 2012 class projects involved creative ways to have solar installation on schools and university buildings, and a non-profit business plan to distribute pre-fabricated powerports with emergency and developing world use.

“The most tangible value that the class gets out of this particular course is the group project,” said Lyra Rakusin, Workforce Development Specialist at the N.C. Solar Center and course designer of CREM. “The effort that each group puts in analyzing the pros of a location, gathering the data, deciding which technology to use, and making the project work financially helps these professionals understand what it takes to make it in this growing industry. In the end, these are the skills needed to create the jobs of this century.”

While the CREM program caters to the non-technical side of renewables, the N.C. Solar Center continues to offer workshops for installers and system designers of solar electric, solar thermal, wind systems and home energy raters. The Center also has workshops for STEM teachers and community college instructors who wish to incorporate renewable energy into the classroom. That effort is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Program and the Solar Instructor Training Network.

For more information about the Certificate in Renewable Energy Management, contact Lyra Rakusin at or 919-624-3061.

Clean Transportation Partners’ Success Highlight Use of Propane and Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Posted on: October 5th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

Two documents recently posted on the N.C. Solar Center’s Clean Transportation web pages : the  Hybrid Electric Vehicle Impact Summary  and Propane Vehicles Success Story  highlight two of the alternative fuel/advanced vehicle technologies expanded through the Clean Fuel Advanced Technology (CFAT) project- a six year project of the Center that spanned 2006-2012. An overall summary of the CFAT project, which focused on education, outreach, recognition of exemplary efforts and sub-award funding assistance for technologies that reduce transportation related emissions in eligible North Carolina counties, is captured here.

A 2010 CFAT call for projects led to the purchase of 23 light- duty hybrid electric passenger vehicles (HEVs) by seven government entities: Cities of Cherryville and Raleigh, Centralina Council of Governments, Nash and Person Counties, Nash Rocky Mount Schools and Town of Chapel Hill. Collectively these vehicles drive approximately 365,000 miles and displace over 9,500 gallons of gasoline annually through the increased efficiency of the hybrids compared to vehicles being replaced.

Another CFAT success story is the use of propane (aka as LPG or autogas) by the Iredell County Sheriff’s Department. Thirteen (13) 2010 Ford Crown Victoria patrol cars were converted to gasoline-LPG bi-fuel vehicles. The conversion cost was $4,615 per vehicle for a total project cost of $59,990. Project funding contributed $38,865 with the Sherriff’s Office cost share of $21,125 coming from Drug Interdiction Funds. With LPG pricing considerably less than conventional fuels (current state contract prices for a transport load of propane before taxes is around $1.08 per gallon) the Sherriff’s Department is saving money while reducing emissions. As a low carbon fuel propane burns cleaner than its conventional counterparts. Moreover, LPG is widely available through an established distribution network.

All in all, drivers soon discovered that there is little compromise in style and performance with HEVs and LPG vehicles. In fact, an additional 20-25 plug-in electric, hybrid electric and propane vehicles were purchased by project partners as a result of their initial experience through the grant-funded project. The N.C. Solar Center is pleased that the CFAT project will continue with $6.2 million in funding from the NC Dept. of Transportation for federal fiscal years 2013-2015. The project will expand with a media campaign, training opportunities and additional funding for emission reduction sub-award projects.