Archive for 2014

Big Tech May Determine Fate Of Renewable Energy In NC

Posted on: October 28th, 2014 by shannonhelm


Google, Facebook and other tech companies want more of the electricity they buy from Duke Energy to come from renewable sources.

When Apple makes an announcement – any announcement – the world stops and listens. And while it wasn’t a new product launch, when Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke last month ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit, it was a big deal.

“We have a huge data center in Maiden North Carolina,” Cook said. “There were no options to buy renewable energy. Our only way to do that, was to build it.”

What Apple built was the country’s largest private solar farm. It’s big enough to power 14,000 homes, and combined with biogas fuel cells, the company says it supplies 100 percent of the data center’s electricity needs.

Apple isn’t the only tech company with data centers in North Carolina. Google’s is just down the road in Lenoir. Facebook has one in Forest City. Disney and AT&T are nearby, too. When those companies were looking to build those facilities, North Carolina was attractive for two major reasons: huge tax incentives and cheap electricity.

“That’s one of the things that’s been very attractive about North Carolina, we can bring industry here because we do have attractive rates lower than the national average,” said Jeff Brooks, a spokesman for Duke Energy. “But when we inject that sustainability element, then they want those at affordable rates but also with options for investing in renewable.”

Data centers use massive amounts of power, 24 hours a day. Currently, about 40 percent of the electricity Duke Energy produces in the Carolinas comes from coal.

That’s becoming an increasing problem for the tech companies.

“People want to make sure that their emails and their Facebook photos and their Twitter accounts are all being run on clean clouds,” said Monica Embrey with Greenpeace in Charlotte. “And that means that tech industries that run major data centers have to be powering those data centers with clean, renewable energy sources so that their customers are happy.”

As international pressure has increased to get greener, Apple stayed close to its company’s identity and built its own renewable power production in-house. Apple did not return requests for comment.

Google went a different direction. It chose to use its purchasing power to pressure Duke Energy to provide more green power.

“We’re looking for solutions that can have the highest possible impact on the industry,” said Michael Terrell, Senior Energy Policy Counsel at Google.

When Google wanted to begin a $600 million expansion to its Lenoir data center, it pushed Duke Energy to develop something called a “Green Source Rider.” It was the first time a program had been requested by a consumer that allows a company to buy electricity that’s produced from renewable sources.

It may cost a little more, but Google hopes this strategy will blaze a trail for other electricity customers.

“And that was certainly one of our drivers with the green source rider was that, we could have done a project that was specific to us only, but we’re looking for solutions that are scalable and solutions that other people and customers can take advantage of,” said Terrell.

Last December, the North Carolina Utility Commission approved the Green Source Rider. Last month, Duke Energy announced a $500 million commitment to solar power. Duke Energy officials say the two events are unrelated, and that the renewable standards set by the state are the primary motivating factor.

But Greenpeace’s Monica Embrey thinks differently.

“I think efforts like the Green Source Rider and others are really clear indications that the tech industry is taking really seriously their commitments to advance renewable energy in the state.”

Tech companies are notoriously secretive about pretty much everything they do. But this summer, Apple quietly began construction on another solar farm in North Carolina. And Google has hinted that its Lenoir data center could expand further, in the future.

And as the data centers grow in the North Carolina foothills, so will the demand – and pressure – for renewable energy.


Dave DeWitt, WUNC

Inaugural NC Smart Fleet Participants Recognized for Transportation Emission Reduction Efforts in North Carolina

Posted on: October 28th, 2014 by shannonhelm


Raleigh, N.C. (October 23, 2014) – The 8th annual N.C. Mobile CARE (Clean Air Renewable Energy) awards conducted by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) and N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) were announced this week as part of the inaugural Southeast Alternative Fuel Conference & Expo held at the Raleigh Convention Center.

NCCETC and N.C. DOT recognized organizations and individuals across the state that are helping to lead the way to reduced transportation-related emissions and increased efficiency. This spring, the NCCETC announced the Smart Fleet Initiative, a new branch of N.C. Mobile CARE exclusively focused on fleet commitment and accomplishments in reducing petroleum use, thus reducing CO2 emissions. North Carolina based fleets (both public and private sector) join N.C. Smart Fleet on 1 of 3 levels by completing an application.


In its inaugural year we are proud to recognize the 18 organizations that have joined this initiative.
NC Smart Fleet Champions: EPES Transport, Town of Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte
NC Smart Fleet Leaders: City of Fayetteville, Gaston County, Greenleaf Nursery, Orange County, Piedmont Biofuels, Town of Cary
NC Smart Fleet Supporters: City of Charlotte- Solid Waste, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, City of Concord, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Piedmont Triad Regional Council, Town of Apex, Town of Cary, Town of Kernersville, Town of Knightdale

“In order to reduce emissions and enhance transportation efficiency it’s essential to account for fuel use and undertake efforts to conserve and use more low carbon fuels. We are proud in our inaugural year to be recognizing 18 fleets for their accomplishments,” said Anne Tazewell, transportation manager at NCCETC.

To learn more about the N.C. Smart Fleet Participants click here.

Center Awarded Clean Energy Training Provider of the Year Award

Posted on: October 22nd, 2014 by shannonhelm
Third Award Received for Training Programs in 2014


Las Vegas, October 22 – The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) was presented the Clean Energy Training Provider of the Year award by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) during Wednesday evenings 3i Forum at the Solar Power International conference in Las Vegas, NV.

The IREC 3i Award is a prestigious national award within the renewable energy industry that celebrates forward-thinking individuals, programs and institutions that display innovation, ingenuity and inspiration.

“With these awards we recognize innovative solutions to solving tough problems; we salute the ingenuity of those who think outside the box to advance the use of clean energy; and we thank those who inspire others to make a difference,” said IREC Board Chair David Warner.
This is the third award received by the Center’s Training Programs this year. In April, NCCETC received the local City of Raleigh Regional Sustainability Award for its decades-long efforts in developing the clean energy workforce that has helped make North Carolina one of the top states nationally in solar capacity. On October 1st, it received the NC Sustainable Energy Association’s Award for Community Leadership for its Renewable Energy Technologies Diploma Series program.

“The Renewable Energy Technologies Diploma Series program has been a leader in interdisciplinary and comprehensive renewable energy training for a decade,” said Steve Kalland, Executive Director of the NCCETC. “We’ve always known that as a Center, we have been the hub of quality continuing education in the nation. It feels good to be recognized not just by the City of Raleigh and our state peers at NCSEA, but by a national organization like IREC. We’ve worked hard for this.”

The Renewable Energy Technology Diploma Series is the flagship training program of the Center. It celebrates its 10th year anniversary this year.


About the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center

The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, as part of the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University advances a sustainable energy economy by educating, demonstrating and providing support for clean energy technologies, practices, and policies. It serves as a resource for innovative, green energy technologies through technology demonstration, technical assistance, outreach and training. For more information about the Center visit: Twitter: @NCCleanTech

Center staff to present and exhibit at Solar Power International 2014 this week

Posted on: October 20th, 2014 by shannonhelm


The educational conference and expo will be held October 20-23 in Las Vegas. The Center will be exhibiting at booth #763, and will be representing North Carolina as a great solar state!


Several Center staff will be also presenting at the conference this year:
Tommy Cleveland, Renewable Energy Project Coordinator, will be speaking about N.C.’s template solar ordinance in the State Based roundtable session.
Jim Kennerly, Senior Policy Analyst, will be presenting two educational posters titled:

“Harmonizing Permitting and Interconnection Processes: Approaches from Leading State and Local Governments”

“Removing Net Metering Caps and Expanding Customer Access: Best Practices for Creating Equitable & Revenue-Neutral Programs”

Autumn Proudlove, Policy Analyst, will be presenting an educational poster titled:
“Encouraging Solar PV Development Through Renewable Energy Tariffs for Large Utility Companies: Key Considerations and Emerging Practices”

• Brian Lips, DSIRE Project Manager, will be discussing the next version of the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, at the Center booth.

New Resources for Promoting Solar-Friendly North Carolina Homeowners’ Associations

Posted on: September 30th, 2014 by shannonhelm


RALEIGH, NC (September 30, 2014) -– Working under the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership, the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center (formerly the N.C. Solar Center) and The Solar Foundation today announced the release of two new resources for North Carolina homeowners’ associations. The first, a short brochure entitled The Benefits of Going Solar: A Resource for North Carolina Homeowners’ Associations, outlines the substantial financial and environmental benefits attached to investments in residential solar. Complementing this resource is a set of model design guidelines aimed at providing HOAs with a strong starting point for developing their own solar policies.

North Carolina currently has just over 11 megawatts of residential solar photovoltaic capacity, with about 15 percent of this total installed in the first half of 2014 alone. As demand for residential solar continues to grow across the state, more homeowners’ associations are finding the need to adopt design rules that accommodate their residents’ desire to “go solar” while still protecting legitimate competing community interests. To help fulfill this need, the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center and The Solar Foundation are leading an educational outreach campaign for HOAs throughout North Carolina. With these resources, HOA board members and architectural review committees will better understand the benefits solar can provide to their communities and get a head-start on drafting solar-friendly design guidelines that also address the legitimate concerns of the community.

“What we are finding with many community associations is that they are generally receptive to seeing more residential solar, but are unsure how to allow this development to occur in a balanced way,” said Philip Haddix, Program Director with The Solar Foundation. “It is our hope that our model guidelines and continued efforts to engage associations across the state will go a long way in helping folks better understand and think through these issues.”

Last Thursday, representatives from the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, The Solar Foundation, and the Rose Walk HOA in Carrboro presented on the role of HOAs in solar development at the North Carolina Community Associations Institute (N.C. CAI) conference in Durham. A large number of copies of both documents were distributed to attendees and the messages and recommendations conveyed within were well-received.

“If the residential solar market is going to take off like utility-scale solar has here in North Carolina, we’ll need to minimize barriers,” said Autumn Proudlove, Policy Analyst at the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center. “We hope that HOAs will utilize these resources to create their own solar guidelines that facilitate solar installations while addressing other community interests.”

To obtain a copy of these resources, please click here. North Carolina community associations interested in learning about these efforts and possibly receiving assistance in bringing more solar to their communities can contact Philip Haddix ( or Autumn Proudlove (


About the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center

The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, as part of the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University, advances a sustainable energy economy by educating, demonstrating and providing support for clean energy technologies, practices and policies. It serves as a resource for innovative, green energy technologies through technology demonstration, technical assistance, outreach and training. For more information about the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, visit: Twitter: @NCCleanTech

About The Solar Foundation

The Solar Foundation (TSF) is a leading provider of high-quality economic impact analyses on the solar industry, a trusted technical assistance provider for public sector implementation, and a solar schools champion. Founded in 1977 as an independent nonprofit, its mission is to increase understanding of solar energy through strategic research that educates the public and transforms markets. While TSF recognizes that solar energy is a key part of our energy future, it is committed to excellence in its aim to help the public fairly and objectively gauge the value of the solar industry worldwide. More at:


Duke Energy Invests Big In Solar

Posted on: September 18th, 2014 by shannonhelm


Duke Energy is investing $500 million in solar power generation in North Carolina.

Three new large-scale solar facilities will be built in Bladen, Wilson, and Duplin Counties. The 65 megawatt facility in Duplin will be the largest solar plant east of the Mississippi.

Due to a state law passed in 2007, Duke and other utilities must source at least 12.5 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2021.

“We choose solar today because solar is the cheapest renewable energy certificate available to us,” said Duke Energy Vice President Rob Caldwell.

Duke’s strategy is to own and operate its own solar energy production by building large-scale facilities. Other states have allowed more power generation to come from individual home solar operations.

“It’s a banner day in North Carolina if you’re a large-scale solar developer and you’re a part of this team,” said Steve Kalland, the director of the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center. “I don’t know that we’ve seen anything like this in the eastern part of the United State, anywhere.”

Next year, the Legislature is likely to debate and possibly change many of the renewable energy rules it passed in 2007.

“I would say that North Carolina remains today the leader in the southeast and one of the leaders in the country, at this point, in solar development,” said Kalland. “The big issue to keep an eye on is if we can hold that position. There’s a lot of policy in North Carolina that is up for discussion in the next year.”

Duke’s three new solar power facilities should be up and running by the end of 2015.


Listen to the recorded report from WUNC

Obama pushes energy efficiency, rural solar power

Posted on: September 18th, 2014 by shannonhelm


The Obama administration unveiled a slew of actions Thursday aimed at improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of solar power in homes and businesses, including $68 million in spending.

The White House said the actions would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 300 million metric tons by 2030, the equivalent of 60 million cars’ emissions in a year. They will also save $10 billion in energy costs.
The actions, together with commitments from states, communities, companies and others, are part of President Obama’s second-term push to reduce carbon emissions in an effort to mitigate climate change.

They follow other recent efforts to help the solar power industry, including a series of announcements in April to spur solar deployment, a White House-hosted summit on solar power and a May decision to install solar power panels on the White House.

The Department of Agriculture will spend $68 million on 540 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in rural areas, 240 of which are for solar power. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will announce the program, the White House said.

Veterans are also a target of Thursday’s announcements. The Energy Department’s program to train technicians to design and install solar power infrastructure will open programs at up to three military bases this fall.

At the Department of Housing and Urban development, officials will seek to give a boost to renewable energy in affordable housing communities by clarifying that one of its funding programs for economic development can be used for clean energy and energy efficiency projects.

The Energy Department will certify a new set of building codes and propose energy efficiency standards for commercial unit air conditioners, the White House said.

The commitments from outside of the federal government to deploy solar power and improve efficiency “represent more than 35 megawatts of solar deployed — enough energy to power thousands of homes — as well as energy efficiency investments that will lower energy bills for more than 400 million square feet of buildings,” officials said.

Some of the commitments involve installing solar power in communities or at corporate buildings. 3M Co., Cisco Systems Inc., Kimberly-Clark Corp. will give discounts to employees who buy solar equipment.


The Hill

What the Duke Energy project means for Strata Solar and N.C.

Posted on: September 17th, 2014 by shannonhelm

The $500 million, 550-acre, 850,000 solar panel project announced by Duke Energy on Monday will be the biggest solar project in North Carolina – and east of the Mississippi River – but it means more for economic development than for Strata Solar, or the market itself.

John Morrison, vice president of marketing and sales for Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar says it doesn’t change the scale of projects the company will proceed with.
“It’s certainly much, much bigger than what we’ve done historically,” he says. “But we’ll continue in the same vein we’ve been in. We’ll continue to build the sort of solar we’ve been doing here in North Carolina.”
While that means bringing a new solar farm online every 10 days, they tend to be in the range of 5-8 megawatts, powering around 600 homes. The Duke Energy farm will consist of 80 megawatts, enough to power 10,000 homes over the course of a year.

Morrison says it’s mostly about the economic development, creating 300-500 jobs in areas of the state that are rural and where jobs are hard to come by. And while careers are being built, the project won’t elevate North Carolina’s ranking among the top solar states in the nation.

“There are lots of states and regions that recognize the economic development benefit that comes from solar,” says Morrison. “There are other states and regions watching the state, like Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Virginia. I’m sure they’d like to see similar investments. This growth in the state has been in the past three years. Strata Solar is approaching $2 billion in solar investments in North Carolina. I mean, four years ago, nobody would have dreamed that would be possible. But this project won’t change our ranking among other states. It will help us hold our own as solar continues to become cheaper.”


Triangle Business Journal

Duke Energy commits $500 million to N.C. solar power expansion

Posted on: September 17th, 2014 by shannonhelm

Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE:DUK) is making a $500 million commitment to a major expansion of solar power in North Carolina.

The company will acquire and construct three solar facilities — totaling 128 megawatts of capacity — including the largest solar photovoltaic facility east of the Mississippi River. The three facilities will be in Bladen, Duplin and Wilson counties.

Duke also signed power-purchase agreements for five new solar projects in the state, representing 150 megawatts of capacity.

Together, the eight projects will have a capacity of 278 megawatts. The $500 million commitment includes the investment in the three facilities and the value of the five long-term power-purchase contracts.

“This is Duke Energy’s largest single announcement for solar power and represents a 60 percent increase in the amount of solar power for our North Carolina customers,” Rob Caldwell, senior vice president, Distributed Energy Resources, said in a statement Monday morning. “We are bringing large amounts of renewable energy onto our system in the most cost-effective way possible.”

The solar commitments are the result of Charlotte-based Duke’s request for proposals issued in February for new solar capacity. The company says the initiative will help further its commitment to renewable energy, diversify its energy portfolio and meet North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard.

Duke Energy will own the following projects:

  • 65-megawatt Warsaw Solar Facility developed by Strata Solar in Duplin County.
  • 40-megawatt Elm City Solar Facility developed by HelioSage Energy in Wilson County.
  • 23-megawatt Fayetteville Solar Facility developed by Tangent Energy Solutions in Bladen County.

The Warsaw Solar Facility will be the largest solar photovoltaic plant east of the Mississippi River.

“We are very excited to be working with Duke Energy on this tremendous solar project,” said Markus Wilhelm, chief executive officer of Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar. “Three years ago, we celebrated with Duke Energy at the completion of our first 5-megawatt solar farm in Cleveland County — and Strata recently passed the 325-megawatt mark with more than 65 farms generating power in the Southeast. We take a lot of pride in our work, and we are thrilled to be announcing this partnership between Strata Solar and Duke Energy on what will be the largest solar farm on the East Coast.”

Duke Energy will purchase power from these new projects:

  • Innovative Solar Systems’ 48-megawatt plant in Bladen County.
  • FLS Energy’s 48-megawatt plant in Richmond County.
  • Birdseye Renewable Energy’s 20-megawatt plant in Scotland County.
  • Birdseye Renewable Energy’s 19-megawatt plant in Cleveland County.
  • Element Power US’s 15-megawatt plant in Beaufort County.

In addition to those five power-purchase agreements, Duke Energy has signed 33 other agreements in North Carolina in 2014 for projects totaling 109 megawatts of capacity.

Duke’s RFP targeted solar facilities greater than 5 megawatts. The RFP was limited to projects that were in the company’s current transmission and distribution queue.

“We were able to pursue the most promising projects in North Carolina,” Caldwell said. “These will be among the largest solar projects in the state, allowing us to take advantage of greater size and scale.”

For projects Duke will own, the company must obtain approval from the N.C. Utilities Commission.

Duke will then take ownership of the facilities and be responsible for building and having them in operation by the end of 2015. No utilities commission approval is needed for the company’s power-purchase agreements.


Charlotte Business Journal

New Report and Webinar Highlighting Renewable Energy Tariffs for Large Utility Customers as an Avenue to Greater Solar PV Development

Posted on: September 15th, 2014 by shannonhelm



RALEIGH, NC (September 9, 2014) – Today, as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership (SolarOPs), the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center (formerly the N.C. Solar Center) announced the release of “Solar PV Deployment through Renewable Energy Tariffs: An Option for Key Account Customers”.

Many large companies, like Google, have taken an interest in corporate sustainability and are requesting that utilities provide an option for them to opt for renewable energy instead of the utility’s standard power mix. This report examines renewable energy tariffs, a special rate option that is quickly attracting attention as a way to do this.

Renewable energy tariffs, which are seen in 10 states and under consideration in others, allow utilities’ highest energy users to pay a premium in order to obtain power generated from renewable sources. While the cost of renewable energy, and particularly solar PV, is rapidly declining, in many places it is still higher than utilities’ cost for purchasing wholesale energy. By having customers pay a premium for the renewable energy they request under the tariff, utilities can ensure that there is no impact on non-participating customers’ rates.

“Renewable energy tariffs offer a convenient way for large customers to obtain renewable power and can directly encourage additional renewable generation,” said Autumn Proudlove, policy analyst and lead author of the report. “Oftentimes these customers are located in sites not suitable for self-generation or in areas that do not permit third-party power purchase agreements, so these tariff programs provide an opportunity to expand access to renewable energy.”
The report highlights two utilities that have recently begun offering such tariffs, Duke Energy Carolinas and Dominion Virginia Power, and offers key considerations for renewable energy tariff design in order to maximize benefits to solar technology, customers, utilities and the public. These considerations include:

• Location and Siting of Generation: Locally-sited generation is sometimes a draw for large customers to participate in renewable energy tariffs. Siting of generation is also important to utilities in order to maximize grid benefits. This is particularly relevant for solar PV, as it tends to be located at the distribution or sub-transmission level.

• Pricing Approaches: Eliminating Rate Impacts, Benefitting from Solar PV Cost Declines: Renewable energy tariffs are generally designed to minimize or eliminate any rate impact on non-participating customers by charging a premium for renewable energy. However, it is possible to design a program where future premiums are reduced or eliminated as a result of PV cost declines. Reducing premiums in this way would still ensure no rate impact on non-participating customers.

• Flexibility, Customer Input, and Education: Allowing for contract flexibility and customer input adds to the appeal of renewable energy tariffs. Furthermore, educating customers about the different types of renewable energy and allowing customers to choose what type of renewable resource they would like to get their power from may encourage more participants to request that their power comes from solar.

Keeping these considerations in mind, renewable energy tariffs have the potential to drive utility-scale solar PV development while providing a host of benefits to customers and utilities alike. “For utilities and their large customers interested in finding innovative ways to access renewable energy, this report provides a recipe for designing a successful program,” said Steve Kalland, executive director of the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center.


To obtain a full copy of the report, please click here.


To register for a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) webinar (held 9/18/14, 2pm EST), click here.


About the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center

The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, as part of the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University, advances a sustainable energy economy by educating, demonstrating and providing support for clean energy technologies, practices and policies. It serves as a resource for innovative, green energy technologies through technology demonstration, technical assistance, outreach and training. For more information about the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, visit: Twitter: @NCCleanTech


Media Contact: Shannon Helm, N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, 919-423-8340,