Archive for 2014

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,

Buoyed By Business Deals, Solar Dominates New U.S. Cleantech Jobs

Posted on: September 3rd, 2014 by shannonhelm


A new report from the nonprofit business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) shows that more than 12,500 clean energy and clean transportation jobs were announced in the second quarter of this year (Q2’14) – more than double the number of jobs announced in the first quarter.

Solar power generation led all sectors in Q2’14 with more than 5,300 jobs announced. The wind industry posted more than 2,700 jobs, many stemming from projects that qualified for the recently expired production tax credit.

On the next-generation transportation side, electric car manufacturers Tesla and General Motors announced new jobs.

According to E2, the jump in jobs took place despite mixed signals on clean energy policies from Congress, but amidst new confidence about future clean energy growth tied to the recently announced federal Clean Power Plan that’s designed to cut carbon pollution and increase clean energy and energy efficiency.

“Businesses depend on market certainty, and clean energy businesses are no different,” says Jonathan Foster, chief financial officer of Nexant, an energy software services company, and a director of E2′s northern California chapter. “What good policies do – whether it’s AB.32 in California or the new federal Clean Power Plan – is help create market certainty.”

AB.32 requires California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Passed in 2006, the legislation is considered one of the pillars of energy policy in the U.S. that has led to thepropagation of renewable portfolio standards in general and the rise of solar power as a significant source of power generation – and jobs – in particular.

Announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in June, the Clean Power Plan will cut carbon pollution from power plants by 30% by 2030. Along the way, the policy is expected to drive growth in energy efficiency and renewable energy, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and saving American businesses and consumers an estimated $37 billion in energy costs.

According to E2’s new report, five solar companies announced significant hiring in the residential sector, expanding their existing workforce in the prime solar markets of Arizona, California, New York and Massachusetts. Each of these states has strong net-metering policies, E2 notes.

Arizona recorded the greatest number of announced jobs in the report. Solar Wind Energy Inc. announced it expects to hire at least 350 permanent jobs for a new project in San Luis, Ariz. This will come as welcome news for the solar sector in the state, which, according to a report from The Solar Foundation, took a hit on jobs last year due to layoffs after the completion of the Solana concentrating solar power plant.

California ranks second in the E2 report, thanks to announcements from the utility-scale solar industry and from 500 new jobs announced by Tesla Motors. Michigan placed third, with GM expected to add as many as 1,400 jobs producing advanced battery technologies.

Down the pike, the E2 report points to a number of developments that are likely to keep the new solar jobs coming. Over 1,000 new jobs are expected as an outgrowth of SolarCity’s $200 million acquisition of solar manufacturer Silevo. As part of the acquisition, SolarCity will build a 1 GW annual production capacity manufacturing facility in Buffalo, N.Y. About 800 new construction jobs are tied to Tenaska’s recently closed deal to build the Imperial Solar Energy Center West Project in Imperial County, Calif.

The top 10 for announced clean energy and clean transportation jobs in Q2’14 are as follows:
1. Arizona
2. California
3. Michigan
4. Utah
5. Massachusetts
6. New York
7. Nevada
8. New Mexico
9. North Dakota
10. North Carolina
For the full E2 jobs report, click here.


Solar Industry Magazine

Funding available for projects reducing transportation-related emissions in NC

Posted on: September 2nd, 2014 by shannonhelm


Third call includes up to $1,300,000 available to award


Raleigh, N.C. – (September 2, 2014) The North Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) at N.C. State University has announced a final request for proposals for over $1,300,000 in federal 2013-2015 funding to award to governments, business, and/or non-profit applicants for transportation technology related emission reduction projects. The Clean Fuel Advanced Technology (CFAT) Project is a three year $6.2 million initiative of the NCCETC funded with federal support from the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT). In addition to providing assistance for emission reduction projects, the CFAT project focuses on activities that include a public education media campaign and developing clean transportation technology and policy training opportunities.


Technology project proposals for this call for projects must be submitted to NCCETC by November 03, 2014.

The CFAT project, supported with federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality funds, operates in 24 counties that do not meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards. More than half of North Carolinians live in counties that have unhealthy air, and transportation related emissions are a primary contributor to the state’s air quality problem. Previous  proposal requests, in 2013 and 2014, distributed over $ three million  to 30 public and private entities for a variety of projects including natural gas powered trucks and refueling infrastructure, propane refueling equipment and vehicle conversions, electric vehicle charging stations, on-board telematics equipment and biodiesel refueling equipment. Project managers anticipate an equally wide range of applications through this request, including alternative fuel and hybrid electric vehicles, vehicle conversions and up fits for operation on cleaner-burning propane or natural gas, alternative fuel refueling and electric recharging infrastructure, on-board idle reduction and telematics technology for fuel savings and emission reduction, and emission control retrofits for school buses and other heavy duty diesel vehicles.

Funding assistance is allocated in the form of a reimbursement, which can cover up to 80% of the project cost. In order to be eligible, a project must reduce transportation related emissions within eligible NC counties, with the exception of electric recharging infrastructure which, in accordance with new federal guidelines, can be located anywhere within the state. For education and outreach regarding alternative fuel and fuel conservation technologies and policies, the NC Clean Energy Technology Center has partnered with Triangle J, Centralina, Upper Coastal Plain and Kerr-Tar Councils of Governments, and the Piedmont Triad Regional Council.


Guidelines and applications available by clicking on Incentives & Funding at:


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

Project Contact:   Anne Tazewell, 919-513-7831,


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

New Report Refocusing the Net Metering Debate on Steps to Enable Solar Cost Reductions

Posted on: August 5th, 2014 by shannonhelm


RALEIGH, NC and BOSTON, MA (August 5, 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) and Meister Consultants Group (MCG) announced the release of  “Rethinking Standby and Fixed Cost Charges: Regulatory & Rate Design Pathways to Deeper Solar PV Cost Reductions”.
In recent years, over 20 states have taken steps to allow (or consider allowing for) new standby and fixed cost charges, with varying degrees of success, and resulting in contentious debates. The report, which includes a comprehensive national status update on state and local net energy metering (NEM) debates, outlines the ways in which solar-specific fees and charges can erase solar-related utility bill savings and derail non-hardware “soft” cost reductions. It concludes by recommending a fairer, more equitable approach that allows utilities to fully recover their costs and allow solar PV to continue to become more cost-effective.
“Recent discussions about solar in Massachusetts, California and elsewhere show that it is possible for utilities and the solar industry to avoid unduly contentious debates and agree on comprehensive approaches that allow solar to thrive and allow utilities to remain a solid long-term investment,” said Jim Kennerly, senior policy analyst and lead author of the report. “The regulatory and rate design pathways we recommend are intended to reframe a divisive debate and focus on constructive ‘win-win’ approaches that let utilities recover their costs and allow critical solar PV cost reductions to continue unabated.”
Overall, the report recommends that stakeholders broaden their focus beyond simply the emergence of solar and consider the varied reasons why utilities aren’t recovering their costs as easily (such as offshoring of manufacturing, continued investments in their infrastructure, sluggish economic growth and a growing number of their customers that use less). To address these challenges, the report recommends that utilities carefully consider a broad-based cost recovery strategy. The three components of this basic strategy are:

  • Revenue decoupling, which allows utilities to better recover their costs and encourage customers to save energy;

  • A “minimum monthly contribution”, which enables utilities to recover a critical degree of revenue from customers who are low- or zero net energy users; and


  • Mandatory time-differentiated (also known as time-of-use) pricing, which provides both solar and non-solar customers with transparent utility cost information (and minimizes a significant cost shift benefitting non-solar customers);


In tandem with the full report, the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center and Meister Consultants Group also released a 4-page executive summary of the report, as well as a separate state- and local-level “status update” for net metering debates in which actual or potential standby and fixed cost charges have played a key role.
“We are honored to work with the Department of Energy by participating in the SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership, including the development of this report,” said Steve Kalland, executive director of the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center. “As we work toward a Fall 2014 launch of the redesigned Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE), this report, and the suite of resources we are releasing with it, underscores our commitment to remaining a national leader in tracking and analyzing clean energy policy, as well as providing unbiased, beneficial technical and policy resources and assistance of the highest quality.”
To obtain copies of the full report, the separate 4-page executive summary and state and local net metering “status report,” please 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


About Meister Consultants Group

Meister Consultants Group, Inc. (MCG) is an international consulting firm founded on the principle that global best practices can inform even the most localized decisions. Our extensive experience in both U.S. and international business and governmental affairs has made MCG a leader in the rapidly expanding sustainability field. By leveraging our international network of more than 100 consultants, we help our clients anticipate and adapt to the shifting global landscape. MCG specializes in alternative energy, environmental sustainability, international dialogue, and corporate responsibility. With affiliates in the United States, Europe and China, MCG uses innovative problem solving approaches to advise governments, corporations and non-profits on policy development, market strategy, program planning and change management.

N.C. Solar Center changes its name to N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center

Posted on: July 15th, 2014 by shannonhelm


                 The new name reflects progress of the expanded clean energy industry



RALEIGH, N.C. (July 15, 2014) – The N.C. Solar Center at N.C. State University has changed its name to the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, reaffirming its commitment to expanding support to all areas of clean energy. The Center serves as a resource for innovative, clean energy technologies through demonstration, technical assistance, outreach and training.  It also works to break down barriers for clean energy technologies and businesses who want to locate and grow in the state.  Increasingly, North Carolina is recognized nationally and internationally for its growth and authority in clean energy technologies. The Center has been at the forefront of this progress for more than 25 years.

During its evolution, the Center has broadened its technology focus to include wind and biomass; energy efficiency; distributed generation systems like combined heat and power; clean transportation technologies, including natural gas, propane, biofuels and electric vehicles; as well as smart grid and green building technologies.  Over the years, the Center also has also recognized the need to include energy policy and economic development programs.

Today, North Carolina supports more than 15,000 direct jobs at more than 1,000 companies in the clean energy sector. It is the only state in the Southeast with a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard. It is known internationally for having the largest smart grid industry cluster in the U.S. and is ranked fifth in the U.S. for clean energy development and second for solar capacity.

The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center helps the state’s businesses, policymakers and organizations develop clean energy technology and policy initiatives. To promote economic development, the Center assists businesses by providing information on state regulatory and tax policies, and serves as a connector for other resources. Further, the Center consults with citizens, local governments and organizations to provide clean technology implementation strategies.


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


Universities in DC make deal with Duke Energy to buy solar power

Posted on: June 24th, 2014 by shannonhelm


WASHINGTON — Two universities in the nation’s capital have agreed to a major energy deal to buy more than half their power from three new solar power farms that will be built in North Carolina, the schools announced Monday night.

George Washington University, American University and the George Washington University Hospital announced the 20-year agreement with Duke Energy Renewables to reduce their carbon footprints by directly tapping solar energy.

The Capital Partners Solar Project will break ground this summer near Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Once fully operational in 2015 with 243,000 solar panels, the three solar farms are expected to generate 123 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. Planners said that translates to eliminating about 60,000 metric tons of carbon emissions per year or taking 12,500 cars off the road.

The Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group, said this is the nation’s largest nonutility solar power purchase. It will also create the largest photovoltaic solar power operation east of the Mississippi River.

“We’ll be directly sourcing our electricity from three solar energy sites,” said George Washington University President Steven Knapp. “We’re not just buying certificates for renewable energy. We’re actually directly sourcing from renewable energy. The impact of that is pretty huge.”

Solar power generated in North Carolina will move into the Washington region’s electrical grid for the universities. An equivalent amount of conventional electricity will be withdrawn from the same electric grid.

The 20-year deal provides fixed pricing for solar energy at a lower price than the schools currently pay for power, thanks in part to its large scale. Over the full 20-year term, university officials are hoping the shift to solar could yield millions of dollars in savings as the cost of conventional power is expected to rise.

George Washington University spent about $13 million last year on electricity, and American University spends about $5 million.

Both universities have been looking for renewable energy sources for several years. At one time, American University considered buying a wind farm. But the deal with Duke Energy Renewables won’t require up-front capital costs for either school. It resulted from a competitive bidding process that included about 28 companies representing both wind and solar power, Knapp said.

American University President Neil Kerwin said the school is pursuing an aggressive goal to become carbon-neutral by the year 2020.

“We felt an institution our size in partnership with one the size of GW could send a pretty strong message about both the feasibility and the wisdom of both the partnership and the move toward renewable sources of energy,” Kerwin said.

Alex Perera, a renewable energy expert at the World Resources Institute, said the university partnership for a large-scale solar-power purchase could provide a model for other schools or large institutions to buy renewable energy directly.

“These kinds of long-term contracts from good-credit buyers can really be helpful to renewable energy developers in helping them get the financing they need to get projects built,” he said. “It also allows buyers to get more value out of renewable energy.”

By BRETT ZONGKER, Associated Press

Alternative Fuel Vehicle First Responder Training Now Online

Posted on: June 4th, 2014 by shannonhelm


Provides education on specialized emergency procedures and more


With an increase of alternative fuel vehicles on U.S. highways, first responders are in need of learning more about how to react in an emergency situation with these types of vehicles. Due to an overwhelming request for training, the N.C. Solar Center now has alternative fuels first responder training available online. The objective of the training is to give area emergency response personnel the opportunity to familiarize themselves with, understand the potential hazards unique to and learn some of the specialized emergency procedures associated with the growing number of alternative fuel vehicles and stations that they may encounter throughout the area.

The N.C. Department of Insurance Office of the State Fire Marshall will soon have this training on its website as part of its “Pocket Tools Training” section and as instructor resources. The materials are based on a live a two-day training workshop for area first responders conducted as part of the Carolina Blue Skies & Green Jobs Initiative.

Similar to the live workshop, this online version is broken into three modules–Gaseous Fuels which includes Natural Gas and Propane, Biofuels which includes Ethanol and Biodiesel, and Electric Drive Vehicles which includes Battery Electric Vehicles, Hybrid Electric Vehicles and Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles. The material is presented in classroom lecture and discussion format with corresponding power point slides, brief subject matter videos and videos of the hands-on static vehicle reviews that were conducted. Each module is broken into 10-30 minute sections for self-paced review online. Click here for links to the materials.

The workshop is led by Rich Cregar, an instructor and vehicle technician with over 25 years of alternative fuels experience. Additional support was provided by Wilson and Nash Community College Fire and Emergency Programs instructors.

The Carolina Blue Skies & Green Jobs Initiative, funded through the U.S. Department of Energy with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, deployed more than 500 alternative fuel vehicles and commissioned more than 140 alternative fueling sites throughout North and South Carolina. The N.C. Solar Center was a principle partner to the project lead by the Triangle Clean Cities Coalition at Triangle J Council of Governments.


About the NC Solar Center

The North Carolina Solar 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. Solar Center visit: Twitter: @NCSolarCenter


Contact: Shannon Helm, N.C. Solar Center, 919-423-8340,

Rowan’s future in solar farms looks sunny

Posted on: May 27th, 2014 by shannonhelm


The hottest new harvest in Rowan County may not come from a fruit, vegetable or grain but from the sun itself.

Five proposed solar farms have earned approval from Rowan County commissioners and Salisbury City Council, representing a potential total investment of roughly $50 million and hundreds of construction jobs to build the facilities.

In a county with zero solar farms, interest in locating the ground-mounted, utility grade renewable energy projects here has flared up during the past 13 months. None of proposed farms — most about 40 acres in size — is under construction yet, but at least one company plans to start work this fall.

“This is an overnight success story 40 years in the making,” said Robert Van Geons, executive director for RowanWorks Economic Development.

Several organizations, including Beaver Brothers and Catawba College’s Center for the Environment, recognized the potential for solar years ago and have watched the technology grow into a consistent staple of the overall energy portfolio that now shows positive financial results, Van Geons said.

More farms could be on the horizon. RowanWorks has identified dozens of potential sites for commercial solar installations. A good site is slightly off the beaten path with no water or sewer service but relatively easy access to the power grid.

Land for a solar farm, usually between 18 and 60 acres, doesn’t have to perk for septic or have excellent soil for growing crops. Rowan is well-situated for solar farms with its proximity to major markets for construction, services and labor, as well as accessible tracts of land that are not suitable for more intense development.

“We are targeting properties where this may be one of the better uses,” Van Geons said.

He said Rowan is lucky to have Duke Energy’s robust distribution network throughout the county, as well as a number of progressively minded property owners.

Leasing land to a solar farm is lucrative. Land owners can command between $300 and $700 an acre and sign leases for a decade or longer.

“This can provide a property owner with a very stable source of revenue for a very lengthy period of time,” Van Geons said.

Some property owners pursue solar solely for financial benefit. Others want to help lessen the demand on foreign oil and fossil fuels by contributing to the amount of renewable energy feeding into the grid.

When a solar farm has harvested its last ray of sunshine, usually after about 30 years, the developer disassembles the panels and racking system and hauls them away. The land is basically in the original condition, other than post holes.

“There are few other uses I can think of especially in the energy production sector that can be completely removed with no impact to the land,” Van Geons said.

Proposed Rowan solar farms are:

• O2 Energies in the 3400 block of Earnhardt Road, Rockwell

• Sunlight Partners in the 400 block of St. Peters Church Road, Gold Hill

• Sunlight Partners in the 1100 Block of Cruise Road, Salisbury

• Argand Energy at 1200 Redmon Road, Cleveland

• Strata Solar near intersection of N.C. 150 and Sherrills Ford Road, Salisbury

Solar isn’t new to Rowan County, which already boasts numerous ground-mounted and rooftop photovoltaic systems valued at more than $9.5 million, according to the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association.

Food Lion has the biggest project in Rowan, a 1.3-megawatt system on top of the distribution center on Harrison Road. Next is Duke Energy’s mini-farm in front of Daimler’s Freightliner truck manufacturing plant in Cleveland, a 359-kilowatt ground-mounted system.

Several smaller commercial and residential systems follow, including a rooftop array on Wallace and Graham’s law office in Salisbury. By comparison, solar investment in Iredell and Stanly counties has not reached the $1 million threshold. Davie County has solar valued at $20.6 million, and Cabarrus County comes in at $23.3 million.

Duke Energy’s massive, 16-megawatt farm in Davidson County brings the value of solar there to $130.8 million.

With $9.5 million already installed and a potential $50 million more in the pipeline, Rowan’s future in solar looks sunny, said Betsy McCorkle, director of Government Affairs for the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association. Cities and counties that embrace solar projects and streamline their permitting path recognize the boost to the local tax base that solar farms represent without the burden of providing services like water, sewer and schools, she said.

The uptick in solar farm interest is going on around the state, thanks to North Carolina’s aggressive renewable energy tax credit and the improving economy. North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast offering a 35 percent tax credit against the cost of the equipment, McCorkle said.

The personal credit for renewable energy investment is capped at $10,500, and the commercial credit maximum is $2.5 million. The credit works, McCorkle said. Since 2007, North Carolina has seen $2.1 billion invested in renewable energy, including solar, she said.

For every $1 in incentives, $1.93 goes back to state and local governments in sales tax, property tax and income tax revenue, McCorkle said.

A boost for farmers

Solar and agriculture can go hand in hand, she said, with farmers leasing a portion of their acreage for a solar farm and using the proceeds to help support the rest of their operation.

Land owners who lease to solar farms may end up paying more in property taxes. Land that has qualified for special tax status as a farm or pasture is valued at about 10 percent of market value, and the owner may lose that designation switching from raising crops or animals to capturing the sun’s energy.

One company, O2 Energies, might be able to keep the tax status in Rowan County because of its unusual lawn maintenance crews. T&D Farms in China Grove plans to raise 150 sheep amongst the 20,000 panels at O2’s proposed $10 million, 4.25-megawatt DC solar farm near Rockwell.

While using livestock for lawn maintenance may represent a tax advantage, O2 project developer Logan Stephens said the company’s main motivation is sustainability.

“We are trying to keep our sites in agriculture for good environmental stewardship,” said Stephens, who pointed out that O2 is leasing land in Rowan, so any tax benefit would go to the property owner.

The development of solar farms was slowed by the recession, but the industry came out of the downturn stronger, Van Geons said.

“Since that time, while it was rough and tumble, those developers in solar have found ways for make their projects work in a less robust economy,” he said.

An internal cultural shift among utilities like Duke Energy toward renewables has given solar farms a major boost. External pressure from lawmakers and regulators also has motivated power providers to diversify and experiment with renewable energy options.

On the corporate side, companies are gradually moving to the triple bottom line of energy costs, efficiency and their environmental footprint, Van Geons said. Solar can help a company cut expenses while reducing its impact on the environment, he said.

The more solar farms Rowan can boast, the more likely the county will earn a second look from companies searching for industrial sites.

“There are number of Fortune 100 companies that very much weigh access to renewable sources of energy as part of their facility location decision,” Van Geons said. “Solar farms and the Center for the Environment, those types of things represent very positively for our community.”

Solar farms have a secondary economic impact on a community, including increased interest from other industries that want to locate near the facilities, Van Geons said.

“We are seeing interest from manufacturers and integrators,” he said.

Manufacturers of LED lighting, advanced battery systems and hydrogen fuel cell are interested in locating near solar and other renewable energies.

“This region’s growth in energy-related industries is nearly unparalleled in North Carolina compared to other states,” Van Geons said.

Using skills

Workers who gain experience installing a solar farm and earn certifications in the industry can easily transfer those skills to other advanced manufacturing jobs, he said.

Local governments that want to recruit solar farms should streamline the permitting process as much as possible, McCorkle said. Her organization provides a draft ordinance to any city council or county commission interested in simplifying the process to help lure developers.

“It’s a big state, and developers have a lot of options of where to locate their farms, and they want to be in places where they feel welcome,” she said.

Developers anticipate some opposition in areas of the state where solar farms are a new concept, she said. Neighbors complained to Rowan commissioners in February about Argand Energy Solutions’ plans to put a 5-megawatt system in the 1300 block of Redmon Road, saying solar farms should be built only in industrial areas.

A woman who lives next to the planned Strata Solar project on Sherrills Ford Road told City Council earlier this month she worried about the solar farm making her sick and causing environmental contamination. An attorney for Strata, who for the first time in City Council history cross-examined a speaker, said the farm will contain no hazardous substances, create no pollution and use different technology than the examples cited by the neighbor.

“I think it’s an education process. People absolutely have the right to be involved with what’s going on around them and have their voices heard, but ultimately, these projects are very quiet with no glare or odor,” McCorkle said.

Adding buffers

Most developers will gladly add a buffer of trees and bushes to help make a solar farm more palatable to concerned neighbors, she said. Strata agreed to plant a 600-foot evergreen buffer to block the panels from the concerned woman’s property.

Salisbury attorney Randy Reamer and his wife Marcia Reamer hope to lease part of their 200-acre horse farm to Strata, which approached the family. Randy Reamer would not disclose the terms of their lease but said a solar farm is “much more lucrative than standing horses in a pasture.”

“We have our fingers crossed that our project will be built,” he said.

Reamer said he was encouraged to learn that the sunlight harvested by solar panels on his farm would power about 700 houses and businesses each year in Salisbury. The local government approval process took longer than expected and put the project slightly behind schedule, he said.

A member of the Salisbury Planning Board, Reamer said he knows developers have to jump through hoops to get anything approved. But some of the regulations seemed excessive, he said.

To meet the city’s landscape ordinance, which requires 30 percent of the land to be covered with trees, Strata had to lease additional land to dedicate to trees, Reamer said.

The company “has accommodated local officials and neighbors at every turn,” he said.

With local government approval in place, developers of the five proposed solar farms are now likely working on financial arrangements with investors and ironing out agreements with Duke Energy. From there, they will need to sign contracts with contractors and engineers to design and build the systems and obtain materials and financing.

“These projects are very complicated to put together in terms of structure and timing,” Stephens said. “We have been working diligently.”

Stephens said the chances of the O2 project moving ahead are good.

“We have had a very positive experience working with Rowan County and getting zoning approval,” he said. “We are thankful that county leadership is supportive of our efforts.”


Salisbury Post

Going green: Green energy equals cash, jobs for Cleveland County

Posted on: May 21st, 2014 by shannonhelm

Cleveland County is turning green.

Solar farms are cropping up across the county from Waco to Kings Mountain.

Shelby solar manufacturer Schletter plans to add 50 more jobs this year.

Nearly $60 million of clean energy investment has been made in the county, investment that increases the tax base and gives the county more money to spend on other sectors.

And more than 150 jobs in clean energy have been created in the Shelby area since 2012, a number expected to double by 2016.

With North Carolina number 3 in the nation in solar installations, how does clean energy benefit Cleveland County and what’s on the horizon for the county in the coming years?









Impact on county through tax base, jobs

Since 2007, Cleveland County has seen $58.3 million invested in solar energy projects, said Betsy McCorkle, director of government affairs at the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association.

“These investments come in without the need for new infrastructure. They don’t require new sewers, police, schools,” she said. “It’s very low impact to the county, but it has a great impact on the tax base, which allows the county to have more money for things like schools, roads, buses, whatever they need.”

From a jobs perspective, McCorkle said clean energy has brought many temporary construction jobs to the county, but that solar farms themselves don’t bring sustained jobs. However, when manufacturers like Schletter locate in the county, because of the state and the area’s strong solar market that is already in place, it creates sustainable manufacturing jobs for people in the area, she said.

Altogether, more than 23 megawatts of solar photovoltaic projects have been installed in the county, and 11 projects have been completed.


Adding 250+ jobs in coming years

One of the biggest clean energy projects to locate in Cleveland County in recent years, Schletter, currently employs about 110 people.

Nick Wiebelhaus, East Coast general manager for the company, said they plan to add another 50 jobs this year, depending on the market and state legislature.

“Our overall goal is between 250 and 300 jobs in the next four to five years,” he said.

He said they picked Cleveland County because they wanted to be close to their customers, and because they saw a great opportunity for employment, “a good work pool that we could draw from.”

“The local community college and other officials were also very willing to help us develop training programs and protocols,” he said. “There was a lot of good, aggressive campaigning of local officials as well, to get us to come here.”


Bringing back lost textile jobs through energy

Much of that campaigning has come from officials with Cleveland County’s Economic Development Partnership.

Kristen Fletcher, vice president, said in her experience, Cleveland County’s clean energy clients chose the county because of its friendliness, quick process of securing permits, infrastructure and close proximity to the Charlotte metro area.

Another factor in North Carolina’s increasing clean energy industry, said Fletcher, is the state’s Renewable Energy and Efficiency Portfolio Standards.

“A strong renewable energy sector has emerged in Cleveland County as a result of the North Carolina REPS which is helping to offset the many textile jobs lost in the county over the last decade,” said Fletcher.


Becoming an ‘Energy Capital’

On the whole, Fletcher said energy has been one of the EDP’s main areas of focus.

She said communities in the Charlotte area now call themselves “The New Energy Capital” because of the millions of dollars of investment here in recent years from the energy industry.

“The regional statistics are fairly staggering. We have over 260 companies tied directly to the energy sector, that are employing more than 27,800 workers and ranging from solar panel manufacturing to nuclear engineering to renewable research and development,” she said.

The future for the ‘New Energy Capital’ is very much a bright one, she said.

“We remain very optimistic about additional renewable energy-related investment and job creation in Cleveland County,” she said.  “It’s been rewarding to watch Cleveland County become a power player in this sector, as companies we have recruited over the last eight years have made combined investments well into the billions and have created thousands of new jobs in our community.”


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Apex, NC to get first electric car-charging station

Posted on: May 8th, 2014 by shannonhelm No Comments


As of May 2nd, downtown Apex will have its first public car-charging station.

There will be three charging spaces in the Saunders Street parking lot, across from the Apex Police Department, that are free of cost and available to the general public.

One is equipped with an Eaton DC Quick Charger that can charge Tesla vehicles, the Nissan LEAF, and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV to about an 80 percent charge in 20 to 30 minutes. The other two spaces have GE Level 2 chargers, which can accommodate all electric vehicles with about 40 miles of charge in three to four hours.

“Wake County is scattered with dozens of similar stations, providing PEV owners with the opportunity to charge while they work, dine, or shop,” said Town Manager Bruce Radford in a release. “We saw the need in Apex to provide this service to our visitors and residents while allowing them to enjoy the amenities of our downtown.”

Funds for the charging station came from grant programs through North Carolina State University, the North Carolina Solar Center and Advanced Energy.

The town of Apex received another grant to buy four electric vehicles and install charging stations at Town Hall. These stations will be for town use only.


Triangle Business Journal