Posts Tagged ‘Solar’

Solar firm Semprius opens Henderson plant Sept. 26

Posted on: September 17th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

DURHAM, N.C. — Solar technology startup Semprius will opened its production plant in Henderson on Sept. 26.

Semprius is based in Durham but chose Henderson for its first manufacturing facility. The company is eligible to receive some $8 million in state and local tax incentives.

Plans call for Semprius to hire some 250 workers over the next several years to man the Henderson facility.

N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue attended the opening day launch at a 9 a.m. ceremony.

“The highly anticipated opening of this new facility has significant implications for the future of renewable energy,” said Sempris Chief Executive Officer Joe Carr. “It’s a major milestone for Semprius, and we’re very proud of our team and our public and private partners that have helped us bring it in on time and on budget. With production ramped up, we will be able to effectively service our customers, including companies like Siemens and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.”

Semprius has developed proprietary technology for development of photovoltaic solar modules. The company has set a record for conversion efficiency of solar power conversion to energy at 33.9 percent.

That achievement earned Semprius high praise recently from MIT.

Semprius has raised more than $40 million in venture capital from investors such as Intersouth Partners in Durham as well as In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA, plus Siemens Venture Capital.

In July, Semprius secured $8 million in credit.

Horizon Technology Finance Corporation and Silicon Valley Bank agreed to provide an $8 million venture loan “facility.”

Horizon will provide $5 million and Silicon Valley Bank the remaining $3 million.


Reposted from WRALTechwire

Five Key Takeaways from the U.S. Solar Market Trends Report

Posted on: August 17th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

1.  Photovoltaic markets are growing quickly

Last year was another banner year for solar, with large increases in both the number and average size of photovoltaic (PV) installations. The capacity of PV installations in 2011 more than doubled, compared with 2010 installations. More utility-scale systems and an increase in the average system size accounted for this dramatic growth. The total capacity of utility and nonresidential systems installed in 2011 increased by 145% and 132% respectively compared with 2010.  The average size of all PV installations grew 64% in 2011, to 29 kWDC. Fig. 2: Annual Installed Grid-Connected PV Capacity by Sector (2002-2011).


2.  Installations are concentrated in a few states

In 2011, more than two-thirds of grid-connected PV system installations were concentrated in California, New Jersey, Arizona and New Mexico, as shown. Of the top 10 states, Arizona had the highest growth, with more than 4.5 times as many installations as the year before. The market more than tripled in New Mexico and New York, and more than doubled in California, New Jersey and Hawaii. On a per capita basis, six states — Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, New Jersey and New Mexico — had more installations than California in 2011, demonstrating how the market is diversifying across the country.


2011 Rank by State 2011


1. California 537.8
2. New Jersey 306.1
3. Arizona 287.8
4. New Mexico 122.1
5. Pennsylvania 78.2
6. Colorado 75.5
7. New York 68.3
8. Texas 51.1
9. North Carolina 45.5
10. Hawaii 40.5
All Other States 232.0
Total 1,844.9


3.  Utility-sector PV installations more than doubled in 2011 compared to 2010

The utility sector’s share of all U.S. grid-connected PV installations grew from virtually none in 2006 to 15% in 2009, to 32% in 2010, and to 38% in 2011. Of the 10 largest PV installations in the United States, five were installed in 2011. The two largest U.S. PV installations installed in 2011 were the 49-megawatt DC (MWDC) Mesquite Solar 1 Plant in Arlington, Ariz., which supplies power to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers in northern California, and the 35-MWDC plant in Webberville, Texas, which supplies power to Austin Energy.


4.  The average size of non-residential distributed installations is increasing

The capacity of non-residential sector installations, like government buildings, retail stores, warehouses, and military installations, more than doubled in 2011 compared to 2010. The average size of a non-residential distributed installation grew by an astounding 46%. The largest installations to date in this sector were a 9-MWDC installation at Gloucester Marine Terminal in Gloucester City, N.J., and a 6-MWDC installation at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Favorable economics for consumers and a rush to complete installations before the expiration of the Treasury 1603 Grant program at the end of 2011 fueled this explosive growth.


5.  Policy remains the most important market driver

Federal tax credits and cash grants are an important financial component of most installations. State policies affect PV installations, with most installations happening in the few states with favorable solar policies. Though their impact on the total market is declining, financial rebates have historically been the most important state policy initiative, especially for smaller installations. State renewable portfolio standards (RPSs), which mandate that utilities generate a percentage of their power from solar or other renewable sources, tend to encourage larger installations. These are fast becoming the most important state policy tool. Installed PV costs are declining and there are now a few markets where PV costs compete with electricity prices.


By Larry Sherwood, IREC

Dorcas Creates Energy & Cash with Rooftop Solar Farm

Posted on: June 14th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

Cary, NC - Dorcas Ministries in Cary has a new solar rooftop. It generates energy, cash and claims to be the largest solar farm in Wake County.

Found Money

Large buildings are typically an energy drain – dark roofs require lots of energy to cool building interiors, and the size often contributes to water run-off issues.

By utilizing this often overlooked space to house solar panels, Argand Energy and  Yes! Solar Solutions of Cary have unlocked a source of renewable energy for Dorcas Ministries.  Located on otherwise cost-consuming space, the farm generates an income for Dorcas.

Leasing Payments Provide Revenue Stream

Argand Energy owns and operates the 237 kilowatt solar array and pay Dorcas Ministries lease payments for using rooftop space. By leasing their roof, Dorcas Ministries has created a much needed revenue stream that will help fund their mission of providing crisis support for the people they serve throughout the community.

Argand’s Director of Sales, Rob Lease commented, “Argand, in partnership with Yes! Solar, is proud to be part of furthering Dorcas Ministries outreach programs by providing a valuable revenue stream and an educational opportunity while leveraging solar energy to build a sustainable community.”

More Self-Reliant

Howard Manning, Executive Director of Dorcas Ministries spoke about the benefits of the partnership for the Cary community. “Our partnership with Yes! Solar Solutions and Argrand Energy Solutions is another excellent example of how all of us (for profit and non profit businesses) can collaborate to make our community the best place to live, work, and play.”

“Since our relocation to Cary Plaza,” Manning continued,  ”one of our priorities has been to help our clients break the cycle of financial crises by becoming more self reliant.  The income we receive from leasing our otherwise unusable roof space benefits Dorcas’s mission to create a circle of sustainability by providing the tools to help others become sustainable.”

Competing Companies, Working Together

Yes! Solar Solutions, located in Cary, installs photovoltilic solar panel systems, specializing in small business, homes,  and non-profits. President Stew Miller remarked, “Our business plan includes developing opportunities for non-profits to spread sustainability among all facets of the community.”


Written by staff reports from

New Bern solar project harnesses the sun’s energy from warehouse rooftop

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


ESA Renewables completes 1.26-megawatt solar power plant, Eastern North Carolina’s largest


New Bern, N.C. (April 5, 2012) – Eastern North Carolina’s largest solar photovoltaic (PV) array is online and generating electricity from atop a massive rooftop in New Bern. The 1.26-megawatt (MW) solar PV array was built and will be operated by ESA Renewables, LLC, and Progress Energy Carolinas will purchase the electricity it generates to serve the utility’s customers.

This solar PV project is part of the utility’s plan to meet the requirements of North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard. Progress Energy has more than 240 MWs of renewable energy under contract in North Carolina to help meet the requirements of this law, including solar, biofuels, landfill methane and other technologies.

“We remain committed to responsibly pursuing renewable energy resources, and we are pleased that our portfolio of solar projects continues to expand,” said Lloyd Yates, president and chief executive officer of Progress Energy Carolinas. “Projects such as this, coupled with our aggressive energy-efficiency programs and advanced generation facilities, will provide the clean, reliable, affordable power our customers rely on us to provide. We are proud to partner with ESA on this innovative project.”

The New Bern solar array will generate about 1.5 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1,000 tons annually. This is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from about 200 vehicles.  The expected annual energy output equals the annual energy usage of about 100 typical households.

“ESA is excited to have one of Progress Energy Carolinas’ largest installations in the east under our belt,” says ESA President Jeffrey Burkett. “We are ready to see what 2012 will hold for ESA and we will continue to bring solar to the communities of North Carolina and all around the United States.”

Using Poly-crystalline Canadian Solar modules, the array will cover approximately 177,160 square feet of the roof area, becoming one of Progress Energy Carolinas largest installations in the east to date, including ground mounted systems. ESA will operate and maintain the system for the duration of the contract with Progress Energy Carolinas. Included in the operation and maintenance contract is ESA’s own proprietary monitoring system, which was developed in house. The monitoring system is an effective, preventative, and corrective maintenance system that helps monitor the plant with real time data and alerts.

About ESA Renewables, LLC
ESA Renewables has positioned itself as a leader in the industry providing turnkey solar PV systems globally. ESA owns and operates a diverse portfolio of more than 500 solar PV power generating facilities located in the United States, Puerto Rico, Spain and Italy. ESA’s scope of services includes financing, engineering, construction, testing and operation and maintenance. With headquarters in Castellon Spain, ESA has additional offices in Florida, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, Chile and Italy. For more information about ESA Renewables, LLC, please visit or call 407-268-6455.

About Progress Energy
Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN), headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., is a Fortune 500 energy company with 23,000 megawatts of generation capacity and approximately $9 billion in annual revenues. Progress Energy includes two major electric utilities that serve about 3.1 million customers in the Carolinas and Florida. The company has earned the Edison Electric Institute’s Edison Award, the industry’s highest honor, in recognition of its operational excellence, and was the first utility to receive the prestigious J.D. Power and Associates Founder’s Award for customer service. The company is pursuing a balanced strategy for a secure energy future, which includes aggressive energy-efficiency programs, investments in renewable energy technologies and a state-of-the-art electricity system. Progress Energy celebrated a century of service in 2008. Visit the company’s website at

State of Solar Photovoltaics in North Carolina

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

Curious about how the solar industry is growing in North Carolina?    Since 2007, NC has started appearing on the map for solar.  In 2008, NC was number 10 in installed capacity during that year, and in 2009, NC was number 10 in installed PV capacity.  At the end of 2010, NC was number 11 for cumulative installed capacity across the United States.  As of September 2011, NC ranked 8th for cumulative installed PV capacity.

Because of this increase in PV installations, North Carolina has increased the number of those employed in the solar industry, which is great news for our local economy.

This growth has largely been due to the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and solar carve out for solar. North Carolina is the first state in the Southeast to have the RPS standard.

To learn more about solar in North Carolina, our own Amy Heinemann, Sr. Policy Analyst, created a presentation that provides an overview of how policy, partners, and industry have made solar work in North Carolina.


Download: State of Solar Photovoltaics in North Carolina


Study Finds Decline in Solar Costs

Posted on: February 29th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

Solar power has the potential to hedge rising electricity costs, according to a study by the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA). The 32-page report, “Levelized Cost of Solar Photovoltaics in North Carolina,” was released on Wednesday, Feb. 29 by NCSEA’s market intelligence team. The detailed analysis considers multiple scenarios to understand the impact of system capacity, type of electric service provider, system ownership (residential or commercial) and state and federal tax credits.

To a summary and to read the entire 32-page report, click here

Chapel Hill company plans 15 solar farms this year

Posted on: February 27th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

By Ted Richardson
Johnny Evans, right, and Dan Shields install solar panels at a solar farm being built by Strata Solar in Chatham County. The company has about 10 megawatts in operation.


CHAPEL HILL — The thicket of aluminum crossbars, rising shoulder-high and gleaming in the sunlight, could easily fill several football fields. In less than two months, this geometrical framework sprouting in Chatham County will be covered over by an indigo meadow of solar panels.

With projects like this and bigger ones in the works, 3-year-old Strata Solar has rapidly become the state’s dominant developer of solar power. The Chapel Hill company has designed or proposed more sunshine-to-electricity projects than any of the state’s estimated 75 solar developers and installers.

Strata Solar plans 15 industrial-scale solar farms for completion this year – including three in Wake and Chatham counties – each with a power capacity of about 5 megawatts. Strata Solar executives are closing in on a deal that would be the state’s biggest solar farm, at about 20 megawatts.




Meanwhile, the 40-employee company is already looking beyond North Carolina, having opened offices on the West Coast in a bid to break into solar markets in California and Hawaii. Strata Solar’s domination in the state results from aggressively courting investors for major solar projects, leaving other developers to focus on smaller residential and rooftop projects.

The reigning sun king of this photovoltaic empire is Markus Wilhelm, 54, a former publishing executive who honed his business acumen in direct marketing and book club promotions. A German transplant to Chapel Hill, Wilhelm doesn’t display the apostolic fervor of longtime solar enthusiasts; rather, he’s fixated on bottom lines.

“He’s not a hippy trying to run a business, he’s a businessman trying to run a business,” said Stephen Kalland, executive director of the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center in Raleigh. “And it shows in the way that Strata Solar works.”

Strata Solar is powering a solar boom that has resulted in 584 megawatts of electricity developed or proposed – about half the size of a nuclear power plant – since the state legislature passed a green energy mandate in 2007.

The rapid expansion comes at a time that the cost of solar panels is plummeting to historic lows and reducing the economic barrier to building solar farms. A fifth of the state’s solar projects were proposed just in the past seven weeks, mostly by Strata Solar.

Wilhelm says that falling solar costs eventually could render this country’s generous solar incentives obsolete, even though today more than half of the cost of a solar farm in North Carolina is subsidized with federal and state tax credits.

The cost of solar panels, including installation, has fallen from about $9 a watt to $3 a watt this year, and could fall to $1 a watt in several years, Wilhelm said.

“If we keep the current trend going, we are not going to be dependent on major subsidies by 2016,” Wilhelm said.

To meet state clean energy mandates, North Carolina requires Duke Energy, Progress Energy and other power suppliers to pay a premium – called a renewable energy certificate – for solar power bought from Solar Strata and other independent producers.

Just a few years ago, electric utilities paid more than 16 cents a kilowatt hour for solar energy, premium included. Today they’re paying less than 9 cents, Wilhelm said. The precipitous decline reflects the shrinking premium payment that solar developers have had to charge to make a profit. If that premium disappeared altogether, solar energy would cost about 7 cents a kilowatt hour.

“The price Duke Energy is paying for solar energy today is competitive with other renewable resources,” Duke Energy spokesman Jason Walls said. “With this drop in price, the company believes that solar will play an increasingly important role in meeting the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard.”

Wilhelm is plenty keen on the ideal of sustainability, but he is not inclined to mix business and personal causes unless there’s money in it. Wilhelm’s quarter-century of publishing experience includes stints with Bertelsmann AG, Bookspan and Doubleday Direct, and chairing the Direct Marketing Association.

“When an industry matures, the marketing people take over,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s a business more than anything else.”

After leaving publishing, Wilhelm moved from New York to Chapel Hill, picking this area based on favorable news reports and its sophisticated vibe. He invested in green home construction but latched onto solar as the surest financial return.

Starting off small

In its first year, Strata Solar developed small solar projects for homes and small businesses. In its second year, the company expanded to larger, ground-mounted projects. Now it’s scaling up to huge solar farms.

The company has about 10 megawatts in operation and expects to be close to 100 megawatts by the end of this year. Because solar power is intermittent, working only when the sun shines, solar megawatts are not equivalent to round-the-clock power plants that use uranium, coal or natural gas as energy sources.

Strata Solar designs, develops and builds solar farms with financing from banks and other institutional investors. Strata Solar typically sells the projects to the investors and operates them. The investors make money on electricity sales to utilities that buy green energy to meet state targets. Strata Solar makes its money by selling the solar farms and operating them. The investors are the ones that take advantage of the 35 percent state tax credit and 30 percent federal tax credit.

Strata Solar’s site now under construction in Chatham County is on the smaller end of Strata’s solar scale, totaling 1 megawatt, a size unheard-of in this state just a few years ago. It’s designed to withstand 90-mph sustained winds and will take less than three months to build.

1 gigawatt foreseen

On a recent visit, a crew of several dozen supervisors and contractors were at work, moving metal sections into place, as others power-drilled solar panels at 25-degree angles to maximize sun exposure.

The project is in various stages of construction: metal beams rammed 8 feet deep into the piedmont loam, aluminum support racks erected, photovoltaic panels attached, and electric conduits connecting the setup to the power grid.

Company executives now talk about closing in on 1 gigawatt of solar power, the equivalent of a 1,000-megawatt nuclear plant.

“By 2013 we can build at least 100 megawatts a year,” said John Morrison, Strata Solar’s chief operating officer. “In the course of a decade, we should be able to build 1 gigawatt of solar. Do you know how long it takes to build a nuclear plant? About 10 years.”


Written by: John Murawski, The Raleigh News & Observer

Apple Plans 20MW of Solar Power for iDataCenter in N.C.

Posted on: February 21st, 2012 by shannon No Comments

Apple has revealed new details about the operations of its huge data center in Maiden, North Carolina, including plans to build a 20-megawatt solar power facility to support its operations. Apple also plans to use a fuel cell powered by biogas that could generate up to 5 megawatts of power.

The Apple facility would be the largest solar array dedicated to data center operations, surpassing a 14 megawatt array being built to support the McGraw-Hill data center in East Windsor, New Jersey. Apple disclosed its renewable energy ambitions in Maiden in the company’s latest environmental report.

Although Apple’s solar plans are making headlines, the report also sheds light on many aspects of Apple’s data center operations. Until now, the company has made general statements about the efficiency of its data center, without discussing specific techniques used within the facility. Apple’s approach includes:

  • Apple uses a “free cooling” system that employs water-side economization, in which cool outside air is incorporated into a heat exchanger to supply cold water for the data center cooling systems. The company estimates that it will be apple to use the economizer system for about 75 percent of the year.
  • When it is too warm to use the economizer, Apple will use a chiller, a large system that refrigerates water for use in cooling servers. Apple will use a chilled water storage tank to reduce its power bill by running the chillers at off-peak hours, when electricity rates are cheaper. Chilled water from the storage tank can then be used during peak hours, reducing the overall energy cost.
  • Apple says it is using a high-voltage power distribution system, which increases efficiency by reducing power losses due to conversions to step the power down within the data center. Similar designs have been used by Google and Facebook in their data centers.
  • Apple is using containment “pods” in which airflow is regulated using variable speed fans, allowing the company to closely match the fan speed to the temperature and pressure inside the containment area.

None of these technologies are new, but they represent important best practices in the operation of large-scale facilities like Apple’s 500,000 square foot first phase in North Carolina. “Our new data center in Maiden, North Carolina, demonstrates our commitment to reducing the environmental impact of our facilities through energy-efficient, green building design,” the company said in its environmental statement (PDF).

Apple disclosed that the facility has earned Platinum, the highest level attainable under the LEED ( Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system for energy efficient buildings. The company used 14 percent of recycled materials in its construction process, and diverted 93 percent of construction waste from landfills. Apple also sourced 41 percent of purchased materials within 500 miles of the Maiden site, which reduces the environmental impact from trucking materials over long distances.

“We know of no other data center of comparable size that has achieved this level of LEED certification,” the company said. “Our goal is to run the Maiden facility with high percentage renewable energy mix, and we have major projects under way to achieve this — including building the nation’s largest end user-owned solar array and building the largest nonutility fuel cell installation in the United States.”

Apple said the 5 megawatt fuel cell facility, located adjacent to the data center, will be powered by 100 percent biogas, and provide more than 40 million kWh of baseload renewable energy annually. The facility will be among the largest data center initiatives using fuel cells, Last year AT&T said it would install Bloom Energy fuel cells at 11 sites in California to generate 7.5 megawatts of power. A T-Systems data center in Germany has been using biogas in a fuel cell in its data center since 2009, and a similar system is being used by Infinity in the UK. The primary barrier to use of fuel cells in data centers has been the economics and the up-front cost of the units.


Author: Rich Miller, Feb 20th, 2012

Nonprofit to host solar panel system

Posted on: February 16th, 2012 by shannon No Comments
Investor to rent roof space at Dorcas Ministries.


CARY – Dorcas Ministries’ new home came with a valuable asset: roof space. The west Cary shopping center owned by the nonprofit will be topped soon by one of the county’s largest solar panel systems.

The thrift store and charity is using an increasingly popular model to power the installation. An unnamed outside investor will pay for installation of the project, then profit from sales of the solar energy. Dorcas, meanwhile, will get increasing rent revenue, starting at $2,000 a year, and an eventual option to buy the 236-kilowatt, 845-panel system.

“We bought the shopping center in 2008, and we’ve actually been thinking about it ever since then,” said Howard Manning, the nonprofit’s director. “We consider ourselves a green business.”

The 21,000-square-foot installation would be the largest hosted by a nonprofit in Wake County, and possibly in the state, according to its planners. It also would be among the largest solar plants in Cary, only significantly trailing the 2.2 megawatt solar farm at SAS Institute, which produces about ten times as much energy.

A 3-year-old Cary company, Yes! Solar Solutions, will install the panels. Kathy Miller, vice president, said the construction of the Dorcas project this month will be one of the company’s largest efforts.

This is Dorcas’ third attempt to bring in solar panels, following two failed negotiations with other companies. This time, N.C.-based Argand Energy Solutions brokered the deal with a third-party investor, helping Dorcas overcome the prohibitive up-front cost of the plan.

The investor will pay about $900,000 for the installation, but state and federal tax credits will return about 65 percent of that money over the years, according to Rob Lease, director of sales for Argand. He estimates the panels will generate about 30 homes worth of electricity, which the investor will sell to Progress Energy at an above-market rate for income of about $55,000 a year.

After about seven years, Dorcas will be able to buy the panels, which are under a 25-year warranty, for about $300,000. Eventually, the installation could feed power straight to the nonprofit instead of to the Progress grid.

“It’s kind of a win-win-win to the fourth level,” Miller said.

Betsy McCorkle, economic development coordinator for the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, said the investor model is particularly attractive for nonprofits because they can’t redeem the tax credits themselves. And in general, she said, “it’s gaining traction because people are figuring out how to do it.”

Argand retooled its business about 18 months ago to focus heavily on commercial-scale installations, and almost half of that business is now driven by third-party investors. For those who can afford it, a venture like the Dorcas panels offers about 12 percent return on investment and breaks even in about five years.

The town of Cary also has brought in an outside company to build and operate a large solar installation on town land. The investor model is practically the only way, McCorkle said, for nonprofits and governments to install large systems.

Chapel Hill solar farm proposed

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

A Chapel Hill green energy developer has chosen its home base to build one of the state’s largest solar energy plants.

If approved by the N.C. Utilities Commission, Strata Solar’s proposed 40-acre solar farm in Chapel Hill would be the biggest solar farm in the Triangle.

It’s one of two 5-megawatt projects the company proposed this week and among more than a dozen Strata Solar has developed or planned to date.

Strata Solar also proposed a similarly sized solar project in Howard’s Creek, about 200 miles west of Raleigh. The company was founded in 2009 and has about 30 employees.

The 5-megawatt size has become a standard in this state for a large solar farm. Several years ago the barrier to break was 1 megawatt, which is now considered a medium-sized, industrial-scale solar farm.

The state’s largest solar farm, in Davidson County, is 15.5 megawatts, three times bigger than the Strata Solar proposals.

[Reposted from Raleigh News & Observer, Feb 9th, 2012]