Archive for 2014

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.”


Reposted from

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

N.C. Solar Center wins City of Raleigh’s 2014 Environmental Regional Award

Posted on: April 30th, 2014 by shannonhelm No Comments

The City of Raleigh recognized individuals and organizations committed to preserving and improving the environment at its seventh annual Environmental Awards celebration Tuesday evening, April 22 at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. More than 200 people attended.

The N.C. Solar Center’s Renewable Energy Technologies Diploma Series won the City of Raleigh’s 2014 Regional environmental Award.  “We are very excited and honored to win this prestigious award from the City of Raleigh,” said Maria O’Farrell, training program manager at the Center. “The Diploma Series is turning 10 this year, and this is a great way to celebrate what the program has accomplished.”


The Diploma Series Turns 10


The Diploma Series, as it is now called, is an award-winning program recognized by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s Institute of Sustainable Power Quality (IREC ISPQ) as offering  Accredited Training Programs for photovoltaic and solar thermal.


“The Solar Center had always offered solar workshops since its inception,” said Steve Kalland, Executive Director, who also birthed the idea of a series of intensive workshops.  “But, there needed to be a program that catered not just to the enthusiastic homeowner, but more importantly to the professional who wanted renewables to be part of their portfolio of services.”


The program has changed a lot since that rainy fall week in 2004. For one, it has doubled its course offerings from four to eight. It now includes the Certificate in Renewable Energy Management, a project development course, and through a partnership with EverBlue, has started offering BPI and RESNET certificate courses.


Throughout the years, the Center has also introduced customized training to bring renewable energy education around the region. It has collaborated with the Northeast Workforce Development Board to bring at least four week-long courses to Edenton, North Carolina. It has developed custom training to utility personnel from Duke Energy to Fayetteville PWC, and has delivered workshops to military facilities in Norfolk, Virginia and Ft. Bragg in North Carolina. In addition, the Center has hosted several company training, such as SunPower, SolarWorld, and Advanced Green Technologies.


Join us this year as we celebrate the 10th year anniversary of the Renewable Energy Technologies Diploma Series. We will be highlighting many of our esteemed alumni and letting you in on the many ways you can get continuing education and certifications.


For more information, contact Maria O’Farrell at or call 919-523-8888.

N.C. Solar Center Releases Residential Customer Guides to Going Solar

Posted on: April 24th, 2014 by shannonhelm No Comments


Raleigh, N.C. – As part of its work under the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership, the N.C. Solar Center today announces the release of two new original resources: A Residential Customer’s Guide to Going Solar: Duke Energy Carolinas version and A Residential Customer’s Guide to Going Solar: Duke Energy Progress version.

North Carolina was ranked second in the nation for installed solar capacity in 2013, installing 400 MW of new capacity and climbing up three places from 2012 (according to the NPD Solarbuzz North American PV Markets Quarterly report). Most of this capacity in North Carolina comes from utility-scale solar installations, which highlights an opportunity to advance solar even more in the state by focusing on rooftop installations. These guides will support this effort by educating customers about solar and clarifying many of the misconceptions about the cost of going solar.

The guides focus on explaining, in easy to understand terms, the different financial options available to homeowners interested in going solar. These are broken up into incentives that reduce the upfront cost of going solar, such as tax credits and Duke Energy Progress’ SunSense program, and payback options that credit you for the energy produced by your solar photovoltaic (PV) system, like net metering and N.C. GreenPower.

In addition to a description of these options, the guides include a detailed analysis of the monthly and long-term utility bill savings that each option provides to the typical homeowner, using data specific to North Carolina cities. This allows customers to get an idea of how much a solar system costs in their particular region after all available incentives are factored in, as well as what kind of utility bill savings a typical PV owner in their area sees.

Overall, the guides show that with an average-sized residential system at typical market prices, customers of Duke Energy in North Carolina can save up to an average of $55/ month for the next 25 years on their utility bill with a system that can cost as little as $4,000, after incentives.

Versions of the guides can be viewed here: Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress. For more information about the Department of Energy’s SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership, please visit


About the North Carolina 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


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

Durham school’s solar project draws attention from politicos

Posted on: April 24th, 2014 by shannonhelm No Comments


Can hanging out with local fourth graders inspired by solar power change the way Washington addresses the energy sector? Maybe.

Durham’s Central Park School for Children recently teamed up with King Brothers Electric Co. and Carolina Solar Energy to install a solar panel unit on the school’s roof, and next is a wind turbine.

Aaron Sebens’ fourth grade class recently toured one of Carolina Solar Energy’s utility-scale solar farms. The Durham-based solar energy company, which has eight utility-scale projects in surrounding counties, draws power across 30 or more acres of panels at a time. The small business employs four people and uses contractors for installations.

“We helped (the school) figure out what permitting it needed,” says Carson Harkrader of Carolina Solar Energy. “We acted as an adviser.”

Environment North Carolina, a statewide, citizen-funded environmental group, brought N.C. Congressmen G.K. Butterfield and David Price to the school on Wednesday to see the kids’ energy project, in the hopes they would take the kids’ message to Washington, D.C.

“Through this project and campaign, these young people showed us that using solar energy and finding solutions to meet our country’s energy needs is achievable when communities work together,” Butterfield says. “Renewable energy and energy diversity are critical to our future global competitiveness.”

To fund the project, the class launched a Kickstarter campaign and raised $5,800.


<a href=”” target=”_blank”>Triangle Business Journal</a>

N.C. Smart Fleet program announced

Posted on: April 15th, 2014 by shannonhelm No Comments


State-wide program aims to recognize fleets for their efficiency efforts

Raleigh, N.C. – With gas prices on the rise, the N.C. Solar Center is announcing the launch of N.C. Smart Fleet, an initiative to recognize North Carolina fleets for efficiency efforts, as well as clean transportation technology and policy adoption. N.C. Smart Fleet provides an opportunity for both public and private sector fleets to quantify, aggregate and celebrate all that they are doing for air quality and fuel efficiency. With an eye towards reducing petroleum fuel use, increasing awareness and implementing cleaner burning alternative transportation fuels and idle reduction technologies, the program will require tracking of the fleet’s annual fuel use, outreach activities and internal fleet procedures.

Benefits of joining N.C. Smart Fleet include statewide recognition by the N.C. Department of Transportation at the Center’s annual Mobile Clean Air Renewable Energy (CARE) awards event, promotion of technologies and policies that can save fleet’s money and reduce emissions, networking opportunities and technical assistance. “The N.C. Solar Center is pleased to have the City of Charlotte Solid Waste Department, and Waste Industries join N.C. Smart Fleet as inaugural members and look forward to other fleets both large and small joining throughout the year” announced Anne Tazewell, Transportation Program Manager at the N.C. Solar Center. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. No previous experience with alternative fuels or commitment to reduced fuel use is required. N.C. Smart Fleet application and overview information is available at

The N.C. Smart Fleet initiative is a statewide effort led by the N.C. Solar Center at N.C. State University. The Center has partnered with regional organizations Centralina Council of Governments, Land of Sky Council of Governments, Kerr Tar Council of Governments, Piedmont Triad Regional Council, Triangle J Council of Governments and Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments to support regional fleet efforts.


Click here for more details.


About the N.C. 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

2014 N.C. Sustainable Energy Conference – register now!

Posted on: April 4th, 2014 by shannonhelm No Comments


Don’t miss the N.C. Energy Program’s 11th N.C. Sustainable Energy Conference, April 22 & 23 at N.C. State University’s ’s McKimmon Center in Raleigh. This year’s program will cover a broad range of topics and interest as well as including a display of alternative fuel vehicles. Subject areas will range from growing energy jobs, exploring new resources to developing renewable solar, wind, biomass and more.

The N.C. Solar Center is a proud sponsor of the conference, and will be exhibiting and participating with panel sessions.


Conference keynote speakers include:
• Richard G. Newell, Gendell Professor of Energy and Environmental Economics at the Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University and Director of Duke’s university-wide Energy Initiative. He was head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the agency responsible for official U.S. government energy statistics and analysis, until 2011.
• Greer Tidwell, Director of Environmental Management for Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire. The company’s tire manufacturing plants are all ISO 14001 certified and all six U.S. plants are in EPA’s National Performance Track Program.
• Rob Caldwell, vice president of renewable generation development for Duke Energy’s Regulated Utilities organization. He is responsible for developing the company’s regulated utilities policies and strategies, driving activities related to renewable generation and executing existing responsibilities related to renewable energy compliance.
• Donald Van der Vaart is the State Energy Policy Advisor within the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.


Register online

Solar-powered Sandy Grove Middle School singled out as ‘Best of the Best’ in current issue of Engineering News & Record

Posted on: February 18th, 2014 by shannonhelm No Comments


LUMBER BRIDGE – Solar-powered Sandy Grove Middle School was the best K-12 education project built in the United States last year, according to a national construction industry magazine.

The Hoke County school is one of 20 widely varying projects singled out in the current issue of Engineering News & Record as “Best of the Best” in 2013.

The magazine said months of painstaking judging went into selecting the best examples of design and construction excellence among U.S. projects completed between July 2012 and July 2013.

Winners first were selected in each category in 10 regions. A different set of industry judges studied those winners to determine the national winners based on teamwork, innovation, quality and success in overcoming challenges.


Sandy Grove’s energy efficiency caught the eye of ENR’s judges

Built with more than 2,300 solar panels, the school produces 30-40 percent more energy than it uses.

Surplus energy is returned to the power grid. As such, ENR said, Hoke County is expected to save about $16 million on its energy bills over the next 40 years. That’s about the cost of the school’s construction.

The 74,000-square-foot school, which opened in August, has numerous other “green” features, including a geothermal system, which uses ground temperature as a heating and cooling source.

High-performance LED lighting is installed throughout the building as are large windows, which permit more natural lighting. Classroom furniture is made from recycled products.

The project is designed to achieve a platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating – the highest LEED level awarded by the U.S. Greeen Building Council.


The school was built through a unique public-private partnership

Firstfloor K-12 Solutions, the project’s developer, leases the land from the county while owning the building. It then leases the building and the land to Hoke County schools. The involvement of a private firm allows for tax credits the school system could not use under traditional school construction financing.

Other businesses involved in the school’s construction included SFL+a Architects of Raleigh; general contractor Metcon Inc. of Pembroke; Crawford Design Co. of Fayetteville, which did civil engineering; LHC Structural Engineers of Raleigh; and Optima of Charlotte, the mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineer.

For more information, check