Posts Tagged ‘Solar’

U.S. Solar Market Insight Q1 2013

Posted on: June 11th, 2013 by shannon No Comments

 

The latest Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Solar Market Insight™ report for Q1 2013 details a total of 8.5 gigawatts of solar electric capacity operating in the U.S (PV+CSP).

That’s enough solar energy to power more than 1.3 million average U.S. households.

Download the FREE Executive Summary now.

A few key facts from the report include:

 

  • The U.S. installed 723 megawatts (MW) in Q1 2013, which accounted for over 48 percent of all new electric capacity installed in the U.S. last quarter. Overall, these installations represent the best first quarter of any given year for the industry.

 

  • California installed more new solar PV on residential homes than ever before.

 

  • In Arizona, 86% of all residential PV installed in Q1 2013 was installed through third-party ownership systems, like solar leasing.

 

To hear more of the report results firsthand, please join SEIA and GTM Research on Thursday, June 27 at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT for a free webinar. We’ll cover key report findings and what they mean for the industry. Register now.

Get the Executive Summary now, or purchase the full report to get more detail on the findings.

 

Governor McCrory proclaims June solar energy month in North Carolina

Posted on: June 4th, 2013 by shannon No Comments

 

Raleigh, NC– Governor Pat McCrory announced today that he has proclaimed June as Solar Energy Month in North Carolina, stressing the role the growing industry is playing in creating jobs and helping make our state and nation energy independent.

“North Carolina is home to one of the fastest growing solar industries in our nation,” said Governor Pat McCrory. “It is important that we recognize the impact the solar industry is making in our state, not only in terms of being another valuable piece to an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy plan, but also the high-quality jobs the industry creates for hardworking North Carolinians.”

Governor McCrory was joined by Strata Solar CEO Markus Wilhelm for the proclamation announcement at Strata Solar in Willow Spring, North Carolina.

The solar energy sector is expanding throughout the state, with solar farms, plants, manufacturing equipment for the solar industry, and workers installing and maintaining both large and small scale solar facilities creating critical jobs for North Carolinians. North Carolina currently has more than 500 companies working in the solar industry, and they employ about 2,000 workers.

Since 2007, more than $743 million has been invested in the solar industry, creating jobs and providing solar photovoltaic development and infrastructure.  Today more than 229 megawatts of solar energy are currently installed throughout North Carolina – sixth in the nation.

Click here to view and download a copy of the proclamation.

Verizon to spend $100M on solar panels, fuel cells for facilities

Posted on: April 30th, 2013 by shannon No Comments

Verizon is making its largest commitment to clean power to date with a planned $100 million investment into installing solar panels and fuel cells at its facilities. The company joins the league of Apple and Google with its aggressive investments in distributed, renewable energy.

Telecom giant Verizon is expected to announce on Tuesday that it plans to spend $100 million on clean power projects, including installing solar panels and fuel cells at 19 locations to help power its buildings and network infrastructure. Verizon’s Chief Sustainability Officer James Gowen plans to make the announcement at Fortune’s Brainstorm Green conference on Tuesday.

Verizon plans to buy fuel cells from ClearEdge Power and solar panels from SunPower. The amount of power from the solar panels and fuel cells, which will be installed across seven states, will be 70 million kilowatt hours of electricity. That’s enough to power 6,000 homes per year.

Fuel cells look like industrial refrigerators, and they use a chemical reaction to produce electricity and heat. They are filled with large stacks that are lined with catalysts (a metal, sometimes platinum), and a fuel (commonly natural gas) is inserted in one side and runs over the stack. Electricity and heat flow out the other side. The benefits of fuel cells are that the electricity can be created on site where it is used, and if the fuel used is biogas, then the electricity is also free of carbon emissions.

Verizon has been using a small amount of solar and fuel cell technology for awhile, but this move represents the company’s largest commitment to clean power projects to date. Verizon is looking to cut its carbon emissions footprint substantially by 2020.

 

Gowen told me in an interview that this initiative is being driven both by the desire to add energy resiliency to Verizon’s facilities as well as the company’s sustainability goals. During superstorm Sandy, a fuel cell installation that Verizon had in Long Island that powered a switching station (using fuel cells from UTC Power, which was acquired by ClearEdge Power) never went down. Gowen said he wanted that type of off-grid resiliency through out Verizon’s facilities.

All of the solar panel installations in 2013 will be pretty large ones. For example, Verizon is putting solar panels on the roof of a data center in New Jersey, as well as on the ground next to the data center. The return on investment for the combined clean power projects is supposed to be around ten years, said Gowen.

Deploying clean power technologies — both solar panels and fuel cells — at data centers is a growing trend for internet and telecom companies in the U.S. Apple (a AAPL), Google, eBay, and Microsoft are all deploying clean power at data centers to help add off grid resiliency, as well as lower carbon emissions.

Apple is building its own solar panel farms and fuel cell farms at its data center in Maiden, North Carolina. Google has spent over a $1 billion investing in clean power projects and recently started working with Duke Energy on a clean power initiative in North Carolina. AT&T has large fuel cell farms powering its operations in California and Connecticut, using technology from Bloom Energy.

In a call last week, ClearEdge Power’s CEO David Wright called Verizon’s commitment to clean power technology “a stake in the ground for other technology companies.”

 

By: GIGAOM

In Rockingham County, the sun is a crop

Posted on: April 29th, 2013 by shannon No Comments

 

PELHAM — The first thing that gets your attention is the blue — row after row of polycrystalline panels sitting atop aluminum racking gleaming in the sunlight.

From a distance, the fenced-in area could be mistaken for a body of water.

This is a farm. Its crop is the sun.

The solar farm, which is run by Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar, sits on roughly 40 acres. More than 26,000 solar panels generate 5 megawatts of AC power.

This power, enough to serve 750 houses, is sold to Duke Energy.

County Manager Lance Metzler said the solar farm, Dibrell Farm, is the first in Rockingham County. He said more farms like this are likely in the near future.

“We are looking at other sites throughout the county that might interest Strata Solar,” Metzler said.

Blair Schooff, Strata Solar’s vice president of marketing and sales, said the company is interested in developing more farms in Rockingham County.

 

A bluebird perches on a solar panel at the new Strata Solar solar farm in northern Rockingham county.

 

“We have a couple of projects lined up,” Schooff said. “We are actively interested in the area.”

Schooff said Guilford County is also on Strata Solar’s radar.

“We are looking very intensely at that whole part of the state,” he said.

They crop up quickly, no matter where they go.

Construction on Dibrell Farm began in mid-January, and it was commissioned April 5. Strata Solar leases the farmland for 20 years with a 10-year option.

The company works with the land as is and did little to no grading. When the deal ends, the panels will be removed and recycled. The land can be used for farming or whatever else the landowner chooses.

“It’s a $12 million investment in the community,” Metzler said, adding that the company spent about $250,000 in the community during construction.

It is a good source of income for the property owner. Schooff said farmers are usually eager to deal with the company.

“We have been well-embraced by the farm community,” Schooff said.

Giant solar farms are a fairly new thing, at least in central North Carolina. Companies say they need trained workers, undeveloped land, community and government support and plenty of sunshine — which the area has in abundance.

SunEdison runs a solar farm on 355 acres in Davidson County and supplies electricity to Duke Energy under a 20-year contract.

In 2011, Guilford County was one of seven finalists for what was touted as the largest solar farm in the world — a $1.4 billion project. National Solar Power of Melbourne, Fla., eventually built the farm in its home state.

But the size and scope of the project got officials in the Triad talking about solar energy as a viable economic development option for this struggling area.

National Solar Power’s five-year construction phase, for instance, would have created 400 jobs. And the $1.4 billion investment would have produced $10.9 million in Guilford County taxes.

Strata Solar works with employment and economic development offices where projects are built, and it hires and trains individuals. Its strategy is to build solar farms in regional clusters so its teams can move from one job to the next.

Where “next” is Schooff wouldn’t say, but the company isn’t finished with Rockingham County.

And there is plenty of sunshine to go around.

 

Reposted from the News & Record

Push to end NC’s renewable energy program ends in NC House committee

Posted on: April 25th, 2013 by shannon No Comments

RALEIGH — The push to terminate North Carolina’s renewables program is over for the foreseeable future after a House committee in the state legislature defeated the measure with the help of key Republicans.

The vote in Raleigh was closely watched by national conservative organizations that had targeted North Carolina as the first domino in a national strategy of toppling green-energy policies in more than two dozen states.

Sixteen conservative organizations – including the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform and The Heartland Institute – made a final push for North Carolina’s bill this week with a letter urging lawmakers that it was their “moral obligation” to oppose government programs that interfere with free markets.

Despite the presence of a pair of Americans for Prosperity representatives on hand to remind lawmakers that “other states are watching,” the bill was defeated with the help of a half-dozen Republicans, including three of the most powerful legislators in the state House.

The Committee on Public Utilities and Energy voted 18-13 on Wednesday to kill the proposal that would have ended the state’s 6-year-old policy of subsidizing solar farms and other forms of renewable energy.

After the vote, Dallas Woodhouse, North Carolina director for the Arlington, Va.-based Americans for Prosperity, could barely contain his anger.

“This was a horrible vote by Republicans, and they need to be held accountable,” Woodhouse said. “And that’s all I’m going to say.”

Those who voted against ending the state’s renewables program included longtime supporters of solar power and other clean technologies. Also voting against were those who are wary of dismantling a complex state policy, which had taken months to negotiate, after a brief 30-minute debate.

But the nays also included Republicans whose districts have recruited businesses and added jobs during a severe economic downturn as a result of the program. Since its adoption in 2007, the state’s renewables policy has turned North Carolina into the nation’s fifth-largest developer of solar energy.

“It was based off local issues back home,” Rep. Tim Moore of Cleveland County, who also chairs the powerful House Rules Committee, said after the vote. “I would have had a difficult time talking to a CEO who just brought 300 jobs to Cleveland County [and telling him] that I’m going to vote to eliminate this program that justified their investment.”

Other Republican leaders voting against the bill were Conference Leader Ruth Samuelson of Mecklenburg County and Wake County’s Nelson Dollar, senior chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Samuelson said she had expected the vote to go either way by a single vote.

“It’s a very complicated issue,” she said, “and we were only getting one side of it.”

 

Hager’s fight for the bill

The chairman of the Public Utilities Committee, Rep. Mike Hager of Rutherford County, has met resistance on the bill ever since he introduced it two months ago. He delayed scheduling votes and several times watered down the proposal to make it more palatable.

With Wednesday’s vote taking place in a committee Hager runs as chairman, where he can schedule or withhold colleague’s bills, his legislation was thought to have the equivalent of a home-field advantage.

Hager, a former engineer for Duke Energy, said the bill would end a state policy of subsidies for industries that will never be able to compete with natural gas and nuclear power. He said the state is achieving little but increasing utility bills to subsidize developers of alternative energy.

“Do you want your kids, your grandkids, your great-grandkids paying a subsidy that lasts forever?” Hager asked members of his committee. “If you feed the bears, they don’t know how to look for food anywhere else.”

State law requires that at least 12.5 percent of retail power sales of electric utilities come from renewables and energy efficiency programs by 2021. Hager suggested shrinking the mandate to 3 percent, then said he could live with a 6 percent cap.

In Wednesday’s version, Hager agreed to keep the standard at 12.5 percent, to be dropped to zero in 2021. Under that version, Duke Energy and others could let their existing energy contracts run out and wouldn’t have to renew deals to buy or generate more electricity from solar, wind, biomass or offset by conservation programs.

Hager left the meeting room immediately after the vote and wasn’t available for comment.

 

Constituent concerns

Moore said he almost always votes with Hager, but told his colleague before the committee meeting that he could not support the elimination of the state’s renewable energy policy. His district includes a $27 million manufacturing facility in Shelby being developed by Schletter, an Arizona company that makes mounts and brackets for solar farms.

Moore said the expansion of solar farms is popular with farmers in his district and with his local chamber of commerce.

Before the vote, John Morrison, chief operating officer for Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar, told the committee his company is the fourth-largest solar developer in the nation, thanks to the state’s policy.

He also said that the cost of solar power has dropped significantly in recent years, and noted that the subsidy in electricity rates for solar is almost down to zero for solar farms now under development.

 

Power company costs

The 2007 state law that requires renewables allows electric utilities to collect the costs from customers, just as the utilities recover their costs for building transmission lines and power plants.

Currently Duke Energy residential customers pay 22 cents a month, while Progress Energy residential customers pay 42 cents a month, to subsidize renewables.

Duke’s commercial customers pay $3.29 a month, and Progress’s commercial customers pay $7.28 a month.

Duke’s industrial customers pay $20.29, and Progress’s pay $34.32 a month.

These subsidies represent a premium paid to make the projects profitable.

The program has catapulted solar farms to the forefront of the state’s energy landscape, but electricity produced from wind, poultry waste and swine waste is still in the early stages.

Democratic Rep. Paul Luebke of Durham, who voted against Hager’s bill, said he was pleased by the wide margin of defeat.

“It is the first victory in three years that I’ve had,” Luebke said. “It was refreshing to see a bipartisan majority.”

 

Written by: Raleigh News & Observer

U.S. Solar Market Grows 76%: An Increasingly Competitive Energy Source

Posted on: March 22nd, 2013 by shannon No Comments

 

GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA®) have released the “U.S. Solar Market Insight: Year-in-Review 2012,” the definitive analysis of solar power markets in the U.S. With another record-breaking year in 2012, solar is the fastest growing energy source in the U.S., powering homes, businesses and utility grids across the nation. The Solar Market Insight annual edition shows the U.S. installed 3,313 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) in 2012, a record for the industry. Perhaps most importantly, clean, reliable, affordable solar is continuing a major growth pattern that has made it a leading source of new electricity for America that’s increasingly competitive with conventional electricity across dozens of states today.

Even with the cost of solar falling for consumers, the market size of the U.S. solar industry grew 34 percent from $8.6 billion in 2011 to $11.5 billion in 2012—not counting billions of dollars in other economic benefits across states and communities.  As of the end of 2012, there were 7,221 MW of PV and 546 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) online in the U.S. — enough to power 1.2 million homes.

“There were 16 million solar panels installed in the U.S. last year – more than two panels per second of the work day – and every one of these panels was bolted down by a member of the U.S. workforce,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “We’ve brought more new solar online in 2012 than in the three prior years combined. This sustained growth is enabling the solar industry to create thousands of good jobs and to provide clean, affordable energy for more families, businesses, utilities, and the military than ever before. This growth simply would not have occurred without consistent, long-term policies that have helped to ensure a stable business environment for this country’s 5,600 solar companies – many of them small businesses.”

At the state level, 2012 was another year for breaking records. California became the first state to install over 1,000 MW in one year, with growth across all market segments. Arizona came in as the second largest market, led by large-scale utility installations, while New Jersey experienced growth in the state’s non-residential market. The top 10 largest state solar markets in 2012 were:

1. California   1,033           6. Massachusetts   129
2. Arizona   710                 7. Hawaii   109
3. New Jersey   415           8. Maryland   74
4. Nevada   198                  9. Texas   64
5. North Carolina   132      10. New York   60

In addition to record annual installations, the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2012 shattered all-time quarterly records as well, with 1,300 MW of installed PV, besting the previous high by a whopping 64 percent. The residential and utility segments had their best quarters ever, installing 144 MW and 874 MW respectively.

“2012 was a busy year in the U.S. solar market,” said Shayle Kann, vice president at GTM Research. “The market value of U.S. solar installations reached $11.5 billion in 2012, up from just $3.6 billion in 2009. Amidst this boom, the industry faced newly-imposed import tariffs on Chinese solar cells and ongoing consolidation in the manufacturing space. In 2013, we expect another strong year, driven in part by new mechanisms to increase the availability, and lower the cost, of solar project financing.”

The residential market saw meaningful growth in California, Arizona, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New York, as average residential system prices dropped nearly 20 percent in one year – from $6.16 per watt in Q4 2011 to $5.04 per watt in Q4 2012. SEIA and GTM Research expect residential solar to surge in 2013 and beyond, as third-party solar financing options spread across the country.

The non-residential segment, which includes commercial, governmental, and non-profit systems, installed more than 1,000 MW in 2012. Leading non-residential markets included California, New Jersey, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Hawaii.

Meanwhile, the utility market continues to be dominated by installations in the desert southwest. There were 152 utility solar installations in 2012, and eight of the ten largest projects currently in operation were completed in 2012. These installations represented 54% of total installed capacity, or 1,782 MW.

SEIA and GTM Research expect the growth to continue into 2013 and beyond. For this year, the report forecasts 4,300 MW of new PV installations, up 29 percent over 2012, and 946 MW of concentrating solar power. Over the next four years, the residential and non-residential markets are expected to gain market share as system prices decline, the industry becomes even more efficient, and new financing channels arise. “All of these data point to solar having turned the corner,” added Resch.  “Solar is an affordable option for homes and businesses today, and is well on its way to becoming a substantial part of America’s energy portfolio.”

Key Report Findings
·       PV installations grew 76% in 2012 to reach 3,313 MW

·       There are now more than 300,000 PV systems operating across the U.S.

·       The U.S. installed 11% of all global PV in 2012, the highest market share in at least fifteen years

·       Cumulative PV capacity operating in the U.S. as of the end of 2012 stood at 7,221 MW and cumulative operating concentrating solar stood at 546 MW

·       Twelve states installed over 50 MW of solar each in 2012, up from eight in 2011

·       There were over 90,000 solar installations in 2012, including 83,000 in the residential market alone

·      The non-residential segment, which includes commercial, governmental, and non-profit systems, installed more than 1,000 MW in 2012. Leading non-residential markets included California, New Jersey, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Hawaii.

·       Weighted average PV system prices fell 27% in 2012, reaching $5.04/W in the residential market, $4.27/W in the non-residential market, and $2.27/W in the utility market

The “U.S. Solar Market Insight: Year-in-Review” can be found at http://www.greentechmedia.com/research/ussmi. The 2012 report is the most detailed and timely research available on the continuing growth and opportunity in the U.S. The report includes deep analysis of solar markets, technologies and pricing, identifying the key metrics that will help solar decision-makers navigate the market’s current and forecasted trajectory.

GTM Research,
http://www.gtmresearch.com

SEIA
www.seia.org

 

Reposted from North American Clean Energy

Chapel Hill’s Strata Solar to build 100-MW farm in Duplin County

Posted on: February 12th, 2013 by shannon No Comments

Chapel Hill’s Strata Solar said on Monday that it is finalizing plans for a 100-megawatt, $250 million project in Duplin County that would be eight times larger than anything now operating in North Carolina.

Strata CEO Markus Wilhelm said he’s aiming for construction to begin in the last quarter of 2013, assuming the North Carolina Utilities Commission approves the project, to be located on a single 400-acre farm near Warsaw, about an hour southeast of Raleigh on I-40. Wilhelm said his company will file its application next week.

“I don’t think there’s a 100-megawatt project anywhere on the East Coast,” Wilhelm said Monday afternoon at a small gathering at a smaller Strata solar farm in Chatham County.

He estimated that construction will involve some 400 workers in rural Duplin County.

The goal is to have the complex fully up and running in the fourth quarter of 2014, Wilhelm said.

Several aspects of the project are on the brink of falling into place, he said, including a final commitment from investors, who are waiting for the application to be filed next week. The lead investor is a large U.S. bank that Wilhelm declined to name, which would use its investment to offset large tax liabilities.

He estimated the project’s value at $250 million.

One hundred megawatts is enough to supply 12,000 homes, on average, and about one-tenth the size of one unit at a typical nuclear or gas-fired plant. Solar farms’ output can vary dramatically even from one hour to the next, of course, a contrast with nuclear, gas and coal plants that was underscored Monday afternoon, with full cloud cover driving the Chatham County facility’s output down to about 5 percent of peak.

The state’s largest project now in operation is a 12.5-megawatt solar farm in coastal Beaufort County, which was built by Mooresville, N.C.-based SunEnergy1 and sells to a non-regulated unit of Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE: DUK) that specializes in renewable energy. SunEnergy1 and Duke have discussed plans to expand that to 20 megawatts.

Wilhelm said the Duplin County facility will supply Duke’s Progress Energy Carolinas subsidiary under a power-purchase agreement due to be signed some time after Strata’s regulatory filing. The project’s sheer size is requiring Strata and Progress to have an entirely new substation built nearby to regulate the voltage of its output.

Strata dramatically outgrew North Carolina’s other solar companies in 2012 and the volume of Strata projects already in Strata’s pipeline played a role in Triangle Business Journal’s decision to name Wilhelm as one of its “10 people to watch” in 2013.

 

Written by Chris Bagley, Triangle Business Journal

GEENEX Announces Solar Projects in North Carolina

Posted on: February 11th, 2013 by shannon No Comments

 

A new solar power research center coming to a location formerly occupied by an airport will provide a workforce for future energy jobs.

This is the vision announced today at the Halifax County Convention and Visitors Bureau, when Geenex LLC Chief Executive Officer Georg Veit outlined a plan for the building of a solar plant at the old airport property outside Roanoke Rapids.

The first part of the plan is to build a six megawatt solar generation plant, to be completed before the end of the year. By the start of 2014, Veit said, the plan is to build a second system, about double the size of the first, along with the Solar Center of Excellence, a research facility dedicated to providing research and education about solar power.

Veit, whose company is based in Charlotte, said such a facility could provide a foundation for a bright future for solar power in Halifax County.

“We want to make Halifax County the center for solar in this state,” Veit said. “And with the Solar Center of Excellence, we want to inform the public — what is solar? We want to educate the workforce. In Germany, everybody wants solar, and we wanted it because we learned the benefits of solar. We have a vision if we tell people about solar, they will want it as well.”

Providing education, Veit said, about solar, will help the public become an educated workforce and be able to work in the energy industries of the future.

“There is a limited educated workforce for this market,” said Mike Whitson, of PCG Solar, a partner in the Geenex project at the airport.

In addition to the educational facility, Geenex, which signed a lease for the airport property today, will invest $72 million in the project and create 12 jobs, paying well above the average hourly wage.

The company will make its money by selling power to utility companies, but the crown jewel of the project, Veit said, is the solar center.

Halifax County Board of Commissioners Chairman James Pierce said the expectation of the board is to see the vision behind the solar center realized, so the workforce needs of the future can be filled by local residents.

“We’re going to educate and train people in our community to fill that need long-term,” Pierce said.

The facility will also be partnering with Halifax Community College as it attempts to train a workforce to help fill early needs. College Board of Trustees Chairman Frank Avent said the addition of Geenex to the community and their 30-year commitment to a lease at the old airport show there’s a bright future ahead for Halifax County. Avent thanked the business leaders and elected officials in the community for helping make it happen.

“This is a great day in Halifax County,” Avent said. “The whole objective of everything we do is to make Halifax County a better place to live and raise a family, and thanks to the people in this room, we’re making it happen.”

 

Written by Roger Bell, The Daily Herald

If you’re in Cary, you may be solar powered

Posted on: January 2nd, 2013 by shannon No Comments

 

CARY — The long rows of solar panels in southern Cary can power 200 homes, but they had an easier task their first day on the job. As Mayor Harold Weinbrecht threw the switch, the mega-wattage of the sprawling array flowed into – wait for it – an inflatable snow globe with a snowman inside.

There was a slight sigh of relief as the giant globe expanded and the snow confetti started blowing. Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year, wasn’t the most obvious time to open a solar farm, so the town and its private partner were well-advised to ease into a lighter use.

The solar-power system, spread across seven acres, is the first to involve the Cary town government. It’s operated by FLS Energy, a solar business, but the collectors sit on land the company leases from the town. SAS Institute hosts a similarly sized array, but the new Cary project is the largest for a Wake County government.

“You can’t get a good perspective of it from this view,” said Town Manager Ben Shivar to a crowd of a few dozen. From an aerial view, “it is astonishing, amazing,” he said.

Cary makes about $45,000 a year from the project, which the town authorized in August 2011.

FLS Energy in turn sells the electricity back to Duke Energy, which is paying subsidized rates for solar and wind power as it tries to reach a state requirement that investor-owned power companies use more renewable resources.

The power grid then distributes the electricity to nearby neighborhoods and the water treatment plant.

“Projects like what’s behind us were unthinkable just five years ago,” said Michael Shore, CEO of FLS Energy.

If the 1.9-megawatt project is a success, Cary will look into establishing other sun-power energy sites. The town already plans to operate its own solar array at Fire Station 8, scheduled to open this spring. And more governments are likely to jump on board, according to Emily Barrett, Cary’s sustainability manager.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if others come soon,” she said.

But the largest arrays, some say, will appear in North Carolina’s rural outskirts rather than in suburbs like Cary.

“They’re more likely to appear in farmland,” said Tyler Johnson, an executive for FLS. “They’re farming solar energy now.”

 

BY ANDREW KENNEY, Raleigh News & Observer

Going green – solar farms, crops – at Robeson Community College

Posted on: November 26th, 2012 by shannon No Comments


LUMBERTON, N.C. — Farming has changed considerably over the last several decades. More and more, farmers are looking to non-traditional crops to increase profit margins.

In Robeson County, many farmers are transitioning from traditional crops to solar farms.

Thanks to the local community college, the county’s reputation for agriculture and renewable energy just got a boost.

On November 9, Lumberton’s Robeson Community College launched the “GreenZone,” a hands-on learning lab where students will learn the importance of sustainability in agriculture and energy.

The GreenZone is an initiative of the BioNetwork, an education and workforce development program launched by the North Carolina Community Colleges system. Robeson Community College was selected as the leading institution for the program’s agricultural biotechnology component, the BioAg Center.

The GreenZone will be a “showcase of sustainability,” said Ed Hunt, coordinator of the BioNetwork BioAg Center. The project will give students and farmers “opportunities to thrive” while preserving North Carolina’s rich agricultural heritage.

The GreenZone project includes a student-run greenhouse, raised planting beds and solar panels. The facility will allow students to learn about some technologies relevant to current and future industries, such as winemaking and sustainable energy.

“A lot of this operation is run by our students,” said Charles Chrestman, president of the Robeson Community College. Students have helped build the project and will play a major role in the crops grown on site.

The GreenZone represents an important project for the school, community and the state, said Senator Michael Walters. According to Walters, the project represents “how we’re moving forward” with green energy and sustainable crops.

“Robeson County is becoming known as the solar farm county in the state,” said Walters. Connecting the region’s strong tradition of agriculture with the technologies of the future will bring the project “full circle as we go forward,” he said.

Lack of education is holding back solar power and other renewable technologies, said Scott Cole, of Simmons Electronics, a partner in the project. The GreenZone will help clarify some of the misinformation that hinders these technologies, he said.

According to Cole, North Carolina has a head start in growing these industries. “One of the ways we’re able to do that is through initiatives brought by the legislature,” he said. The state offers a 35% renewable energy tax credit, one of the best rates in the country, said Cole.

Ryan Nance, coordinator with the Lumber River Workforce Development Board, explained that collaboration is a key component of workforce development. Nance said that political leaders, the community college and private businesses all had a hand in launching the GreenZone, what Nance called a “multi-faceted training center.”

According to Nance, expansion of the solar industry in Robeson County created more than 150 new jobs in the last two years. With the GreenZone, Robeson Community College now provides “customized training” for growing industries. The project will allow students at the school to “utilize these assets that a lot of community colleges don’t have,” said Nance.

The GreenZone will be used as a “demonstration system” to show how agriculture can benefit the state economically and environmentally. Future projects will include the installation of a geothermal system to heat the greenhouse and experimenting with wind energy systems.

 

By JEREMY SUMMERS, NCBiotech Writer