Archive for 2012

Public lecture on the future of wind energy in North Carolina on 11/15

Posted on: November 13th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

The Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (CEES) at Wake Forest University and the Sierra Club will present a lecture and panel discussion on the future of wind energy in North Carolina.  The event is free and open to the public, and will take place on November 15th at 7:00pm in Kulynych Auditorium at the Byrum Welcome Center.

Speakers will include:

Ned Farquhar — Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land & Minerals Management at the U.S. Department of the Interior
Dr. John Bane — Professor of Marine Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill
Brian O’Hara — President of the Southeast Coastal Wind Coalition
Jen Banks — Wind Energy Project Coordinator at the N.C. Solar Center
Craig Poff — Director of Business Development at Iberdrola Renewables
April Montgomery — North Carolina representative for Invenergy Services


For more information, click here.

Some farmers growing profit with new row crop: solar panels

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


ROWLAND, N.C —  Just off a country road is a sight few people ever imagined in this corner of southeastern North Carolina.

Solar panels cover a 35-acre field that once produced corn, tobacco and other crops. When the sun shines, the panels generate enough electricity for hundreds of homes.

“I initially thought this was a pipe dream,” said farmer Billy Dean Hunt, recalling discussions with a solar company about using his cornfield for a sun farm. “But I started talking to them. They convinced me they would honor what they said. So I did it.”

The scene near Rowland is found increasingly across North Carolina. Solar farms dot the landscape from the Blue Ridge mountains to the sandy coastal plain – the result of an emerging renewable energy industry.

In many cases, solar farms are replacing cropland that doesn’t generate enough income from traditional farming. Other times, solar farms are being placed on vacant industrial sites or land that hasn’t grown crops in years.

Unlike many other Southern states, North Carolina has encouraged the development of solar power through generous tax incentives and a state law requiring electric utilities to use some renewable energy. These policies are a key reason North Carolina often rates high in national rankings of solar-friendly states – and why solar farms are growing steadily.

“This shows we are progressive,” said Laurinburg, N.C., Mayor Thomas Parker, whose community has a solar farm similar to the ones in nearby Rowland. “Anytime we can add a dollar to the tax base, we are interested. I believe in it. I think this will be more prevalent in the future.”

Since 2007, when North Carolina began requiring power companies to use renewable energy, about 100 solar farms have registered to open, according to the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association, a group that tracks the sun business.

Some of those may not have cranked up yet, but the association says the number of companies registering with the state gives an indication of the interest. Before the law passed five years ago, North Carolina didn’t have any solar farms, the association reports.

The increase in solar farms reflects a larger trend in North Carolina, where investor-owned utilities must provide up to 12.5 percent of their power from renewable sources.

North Carolina’s renewable and energy efficiency industry employs more than 15,000 people and has generated some $3.7 billion in gross revenue this year, the association says. Companies providing solar services have increased 76 percent since the renewable energy requirement passed the N.C. Legislature five years ago, according to surveys by the Sustainable Energy Association.

The idea behind North Carolina’s solar effort is to diversify energy sources and stimulate the economy with a relatively new type of industry.

Solar will never replace traditional power sources because the sun doesn’t shine all the time. But solar boosters say efforts like North Carolina’s can reduce dependence on coal and nuclear power and stabilize electric bills for customers. Coal and nuclear power plants, both of which create toxic waste, buy fuel from out of state to make energy, and fuel supplies such as coal are subject to price variability.

Solar farms are large-scale projects intended to provide power for the electrical grid, which has historically relied almost entirely on coal, nuclear, hydro and natural gas. Solar farms provide far more energy than solar panels on homes, which also feed power to the grid.

Solar farms periodically spark questions about whether they are appropriate in some communities. Some people say they are unsightly and take up too much space, while others question whether it’s a good idea to replace productive farmland with solar farms.

Conservative lawmakers also question the wisdom of adopting government policies to encourage an industry they say would have trouble surviving on its own. Efforts are under way in North Carolina and, possibly at the federal level, to scale back incentives and requirements for renewable energy.

To Helen and Tom Livingston, solar farms are a great idea.

She and her younger brother decided this spring not to replant a 47-acre cotton field their family has owned for generations. For much of the next three decades, their family will be paid to rent the land to sun-power developer Strata Solar.

Details of the arrangement were not available, but Strata typically pays about $500 to $600 per acre annually. That would be more than $20,000 each year for the 47-acre plot in Robeson County, N.C.

“It is almost too good to pass up,” said Helen Livingston, 71. “For us, it wasn’t just the money. It was the excitement of having a solar farm. But I think people would see that it does pay more than farming.”

Livingston said producing energy from the sun helps reduce dependence on fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas, which hurt the environment when they are extracted from the earth.

“All of our family is environmentally conscious,” she said. “We were the right contact for a solar farm because we knew the importance of this.”

Hunt, the farmer from Rowland, said his reasons for leasing to a renewable energy company were almost purely financial.

“It is guaranteed money,” said Hunt, 63, a Marine Corps veteran. “Farming is a risky business. If you can take some of the risk out and the liability, you are ahead of the ball game. If I die, my wife will have income because she couldn’t farm the land anymore.”

Like Livingston, Hunt hasn’t abandoned farming other land he owns. His solar farm is surrounded by cornfields that are a short jaunt from the South-of-the-Border tourist stop and the S.C. state line.

Sun farms typically develop in the way Strata Solar Inc. built those for Hunt and the Livingstons. A renewable energy company will strike a deal to rent or buy property, build the sun farm, then resell the power to an electric utility. The solar company makes money, and the utility meets state requirements that it use renewable energy.

Most solar farms contain dozens of rows of large glassy panels, facing south to absorb the best sunlight. Wires send energy to nearby electrical substations. Utility company Duke Energy buys some of the power.

For much of this year, Robeson County was a busy place for solar farms, where Strata Solar developed six of them. Statewide, the company has built about 15 farms and plans more than 20 next year, company spokesman Blair Schooff said. The company’s 12 total solar projects this year employed about 360 construction workers, company officials said.

O2 Energies Inc., another solar development company, opened a $15 million sun farm near Fairmont earlier this month. The company has developed and owns seven farms statewide and plans to develop at least five more next year, said the company’s chief executive, Joel Olsen.

Jerry Bass, Strata Solar’s construction manager for sun farms, said his company trains mostly local workers, then moves them from one job site to the next in areas where the company is building clusters of farms.

Willie Locklear, who helped build the Livingston family’s solar farm, said sun projects have created badly needed construction jobs. Many of the people who landed solar jobs in Robeson County are Native Americans, like himself, who were skilled at general construction work, he said.

But Locklear said those jobs have dwindled and solar farm construction “gave us a chance to show we could do something besides hang a piece of sheetrock.”

Robeson County has an unemployment rate that hovers near 13 percent, one of the highest in North Carolina.

“When I think of solar, I think of Texas, Arizona – places out West,” said the 42-year-old Locklear, now a supervisor with Strata. “But the opportunity has proven itself here. All it takes is an open land mass and somebody willing to take a chance. Sunlight is going nowhere. I think it’s 100 percent more of the future than a lot of people imagined.”

Despite the popularity of solar farms in many parts of North Carolina, the business has detractors, including some lawmakers.

N.C. Rep. Mike Hager, a Republican, said it’s a mistake to dangle tax incentives, which drain state revenues, for an industry that he contends would not be competitive otherwise. He and others question whether North Carolina is gaining any real economic benefit since solar farms don’t produce many jobs after the initial construction phase.

“I think this has set the wrong precedent,” said Hager, a former Duke Energy employee. “You take taxpayer dollars and prop up an industry that can’t survive on its own. Why do we do this? Why is it any better than any of the other ones?”

The development of solar farms has not caused major increases in power bills, but Hager said even extra pennies on a bill matter to people who are unemployed. He predicted the state’s generous tax incentives and energy requirement would be examined by the N.C. Legislature next year.

Utilities argue that it is more expensive to produce sun power than traditional energy forms. They also say the best solar can ever do is supplement more reliable energy sources. It will never replace coal or nuclear because the sun doesn’t always shine.

Still, solar supporters say fossil fuels are finite and subject to price fluctuations.


Reposted from the Raleigh News & Observer


U.S. Solar Energy Jobs Increase by More Than 13 Percent

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

The Solar Foundation’s Latest Annual Jobs Census Shows Consistent Industry Growth, Notes SEIA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA®) today highlighted initial findings from The Solar Foundation’s (TSF) third annual National Solar Jobs Census showing that solar energy jobs have experienced strong growth in the U.S. over the past year, despite global economic challenges. The full National Solar Jobs Census 2012, with analysis of employment trends across the entire solar industry is scheduled for release on Nov. 14, 2012 by TSF, a nonprofit research institution located in Washington, D.C.

Initial results from the 2012 census found that the solar industry now employs 119,016 Americans across all 50 states, having grown 13.2 percent over last year during difficult economic times across the nation. In 2011, the solar energy industry employed 105,145 workers, while 93,502 were employed by solar companies in 2010.

Census participants named strong federal solar policy, such as the solar investment tax credit, as one of the most important factors driving growth of solar jobs over the past 12 months. Additionally, one-third of respondents cited the continued decline in solar energy prices as the primary driver of employment growth. State pro-solar policies, including renewable portfolio standards, and the popularity of new third-party system ownership models were other factors creating jobs.

“The solar energy industry is creating jobs in America when we need them most,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “The rapid growth of jobs in the solar industry clearly demonstrates that smart policies, including the federal investment tax credit, are putting Americans back to work.  In addition to jobs, these policies are driving down the cost of solar and providing a clean, reliable energy choice for millions of homeowners and businesses.”

“This is what happens when government provides a stable policy environment – the private industry does what it does best – creates new jobs for Americans,” Resch added.

According to the 2012 census, solar job growth easily outpaced that of the overall U.S. economy, which expanded by 2.3 percent (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) during the same period.  In total, the U.S. today has 5,700 megawatts of installed solar energy capacity, enough to power more than 940,000 households.  The industry expects to nearly double its growth over last year, adding 3.2 gigawatts of solar power online by the end of the year and another 3.9 gigawatts during 2013.

“The solar industry has grown at significantly higher rates than most other industries in the past several years, making it one of the foremost creators of new jobs in the United States,” said Andrea Luecke, TSF Executive Director. “Our census findings indicate that these new jobs are highly skilled in nature, including solar installation, sales, marketing and software development. These new solar industry jobs are sustainable, cannot be outsourced and play a critical role in our country’s economic recovery.”

The Solar Foundation and BW Research, with technical assistance from Cornell University, used an improved version of SEIA’s National Solar Database and additional data sources to refine the methods used in the census and to reach more employers. As a result, the previously reported solar employment figure for 2011 was revised upwards from 100,237 to 105,145. As in past years, the survey examined employment along the solar value chain, including installation, wholesale trade, manufacturing, utilities, and all other fields and includes growth rates and job numbers for 31 separate occupations. The figures in the report were derived from data collected from more than 1,000 solar company survey respondents, yielding a low overall margin of error of +/-1.5%.

Today’s jobs numbers were a preview of the full National Solar Jobs Census 2012 to be released on Nov. 14, 2012 by The Solar Foundation. The National Solar Jobs Census 2012 was conducted by The Solar Foundation and BW Research with technical assistance from Cornell University.


Background Materials:


– National Solar Jobs Census 2012 Executive Summary   

– U.S. Solar Jobs Census Finds Unemployment Soars as U.S. Economy Lags (Oct. 17, 2011)

– SEIA Statement on 2010 Solar Jobs Census (Oct. 13, 2010)

– SEIA/GTM Research Q2 SMI report on industry growth (Sept. 10, 2012)

– See real people in real solar jobs


About SEIA®:

Established in 1974, the Solar Energy Industries Association® is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry. Through advocacy and education, SEIA® is building a strong solar industry to power America. As the voice of the industry, SEIA works with its 1,100 member companies to make solar a mainstream and significant energy source by expanding markets, removing market barriers strengthening the industry and educating the public on the benefits of solar energy. Visit SEIA online at 


Media Contacts:

Monique Hanis, MHanis@SEIA.org202-556-2885

Susan DeVico, SusanDV@aol.com510-339-1527

Asheville part of Clean Cities for alternative fuel

Posted on: October 30th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

BENT CREEK — It used to be fuel in Western North Carolina came in two basic flavors — regular and premium petroleum.

Now more drivers are pumping biodiesel, ethanol, propane or compressed natural gas into their tanks. Other motorists bypass the pumps altogether, plugging in their vehicles to recharge on electricity.

On Monday, the Asheville area was officially named the nation’s 85th Clean Cities Coalition by the U.S. Department of Energy, capping more than eight years of work promoting alternative fuels, cleaner cars and better air quality for the region.

In a signing ceremony at the N.C. Arboretum, elected officials, business and civic leaders marked the long road that led to the award.

Bill Eaker of Land-of-Sky Regional Council recalled that when the initiative started in 2004, the region had only about 100 alternative-fuel vehicles and a handful of motorists driving the Toyota Prius and other hybrid cars.

“Now fleets have 1,300 alternative-fuel vehicles, and there are over 1,700 gas electric vehicles registered by N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles,” Eaker said.

In 2011 alone, the program saved 500,000 gallons of petroleum locally and prevented an estimated 4,000 tons of greenhouses gases from escaping into the atmosphere over Western North Carolina.

As a Clean Cities Coalition, the Asheville area becomes eligible for more federal grants that, in turn, could encourage ever more cleaner vehicles on area roads and cleaner air for the five-county region of Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania.

The coalition will help the city of Asheville stake its claim as the greenest city in the Southeast, said Maggie Ullman, the city’s sustainability coordinator.

“Fuel and fleet are a huge part of the solution to reducing our carbon footprint, and the coalition offers a workable road map to get there. This means so much to Asheville,” she said.

Alternative fuel is a good fit for Asheville with its history of manufacturing as well offering protections for the natural environment with cleaner air and fewer greenhouse emissions linked to climate change. “Those high-elevation balds we have are really special. As we pursue alternative fuels, we are better able to protect those places,” Ullman said.

The program has already paid off in funding for the region. The coalition won $1 million in DOE funds to help Asheville and Hendersonville, Henderson County and Mission Health System buy 37 compressed natural gas vehicles. The money helped in expanding compressed natural gas fueling stations for Asheville and Henderson County, Eaker said.

Stan Cross saw the coalition designation as the next step to weaning WNC off dirty energy toward cleaner, more renewable power for cars.

“I love petroleum, but it’s day is done. We need to move past oil-based and even coal-based power all the way to more renewable energy,” said Cross of Brightfield Transportation Systems. Brightfield is promoting Electric Vehicle Tourism, offering electric rental cars for tourists to travel the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The coalition designation isn’t the end of the road, Cross said. “This is just the beginning. This is the starting line. Now we need to move forward.”

Reposted from the Asheville Citizen-Times

Massive solar project proposed in Asheville, N.C.

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


RIDGECREST — The Ridgecrest Conference Center could become home to one of the state’s largest investments in solar power, featuring potentially 90,500 solar panels tucked away from view on 200 acres of the mountain retreat.

Amenergy Inc., based in Santa Fe, N.M., has applied to the N.C. Utilities Commission, seeking permission to install solar panels valued at $64.5 million on six tracts around Ridgecrest.

“Ridgecrest Conference Center is discussing the possibility of leasing a few acres in a remote area of our property to Amenergy,” said Jon Wilke, a Lifeway Christian Resources spokesman in Nashville, Tenn.

Lifeway, an agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, owns the 1,300-acre conference center in eastern Buncombe County.

The electricity generated by the solar panels — up to 21.5 megawatts of direct current — would be sold to Progress Energy Carolinas, according to documents filed with the Utilities Commission.

“We are targeting that the whole master plan could be fully completed by no later than 2015,” said William Oglesby, president of Amenergy.

The wooded tracts have been sited so they aren’t visible from Interstate 40, which passes by the Ridgecrest Conference Center, Oglesby said. The first phase of 12 acres lies south of the interstate on the other side of a ridge.

If approved by the Utilities Commission, that first array of 8,500 panels could be up and running by next spring , generating 2 megawatts of power.

Even in its first phase, the Ridgecrest project would be larger than the 1.5 megawatt array of 5,000 panels that Biltmore Estate installed in April on 6 acres visible from I-40.

The Ridgecrest system would rival the state’s largest solar installations, including Apple’s plans to build a 20-megawatt solar farm to power its data center in Maiden County. Sun Energy One, a Mooresville company, is building a 60,000-panel array on 85 acres near Bath in Beaufort County.

Oglesby declined to call the project a solar farm since it would be spread over six different tracts. “In my mind, a solar farm would be considered one array. These are multiple independent systems,” he said. “It’s completely infeasible to target that area of the state and put in a single 20-megawatt system.”

Read more…

N.C. Solar Center providing PV training to Naval facilities

Posted on: October 23rd, 2012 by shannon No Comments

The N.C. Solar Center’s Training Program is bringing its award winning, IREC ISPQ-accredited Training Program – “REPV: Renewable Energy Generation with Photovoltaic Systems” to the Naval Facilities Engineering Command – Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia from October 22-26, 2012.  Twenty civilian engineers, mechanical and electrical, will be receiving the 40-hour PV course covering photovoltaic system components, types and applications as well as solar fundamentals and system siting, electrical load analysis and system sizing, in addition to  best practices in system design, installation, maintenance and troubleshooting.  The course will be led by IREC ISPQ Master PV trainer, David Del Vecchio.

To learn more about the Center’s training programs and to see the upcoming scheduled, please click here.

N.C. Solar Center 2011-2012 Annual Report

Posted on: October 16th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

The N.C. Solar Center 2011-2012 Annual Report is available for download!

These are exciting times for clean energy in North Carolina!  Our mission and the roles we play to assist the expanding cleantech industry are diverse, crossing many technologies and disciplines. In the last year, we have restructured programs, diversified revenues and generally become more creative and focused in how we work.   As a result, we have established and even stronger foundation from which the Center will work and grow.

The staff at the N.C. Solar Center look forward to working with individuals, businesses and organizations to help continue to build North Carolina’s clean energy economy.

The N.C. Solar Center announces launch of new Industry Advisory Council

Posted on: October 10th, 2012 by shannon No Comments


The N.C. Solar Center is pleased to announce the initial five members appointed to its Industry Advisory Council:

Allen Burchett, SVP Strategic Initiatives and Business Development, ABB, Inc.

Kenny Habul, President & CEO, SunEnergy1

Lee J. Peterson, Esq., Senior Manager – Renewable Energy and Tax, CohnReznick, LLP

Kerry Henderson, Principal & Managing Director, Gibbs & Soell 

Ralph Thompson, President & CEO, Holocene  


The Council is expected to eventually reach between 10-15 members.


The Industry Advisory Council advises the N.C. Solar Center on fulfilling its mission of advancing a sustainable energy economy by educating, demonstrating and providing support for clean energy technologies, practices, and policies.

The membership of the Council will represent the programmatic focus of the Center, including representatives from the solar, wind, advanced transportation, smart grid, industrial efficiency, and high performance buildings industries.  Members of the Council have the opportunity to advise leadership regarding Center’s strategic direction and programmatic focus.  The Center strives to maintain cutting-edge relevance to the clean energy industries of North Carolina and beyond.  For this reason, the Council is critical to the Center’s process to determine the best way to focus resources.  The Council will be an active group that coordinates private sector input in the decision making process of the Center.   At the same time, Council members serve as ambassadors to help tell the story of the Center’s work in economic development and technology endeavors that support this booming sector of North Carolina and the national economy.  Membership is by invitation only.

N.C. State University’s new 11 megawatt combined heat & power system set to generate $4.3M energy savings in first year

Posted on: October 10th, 2012 by shannon No Comments


N.C. State University has completed an 11 MW combined heat and power project on campus, a move toward making the N.C. State a more sustainable community.  The project is located on main campus at the University’s Cates Facility, and is expected to generate $4.3 million of energy savings in the first year of operation.  The project will increase N.C. State’s electrical and steam system efficiency by roughly 35%, reducing the University’s greenhouse gas emissions by 8%, or 33,000 CO2 equivalent metric tons. The system will be fueled by natural gas, and will include two 5.5 MW Combustion Turbines, two 50,000 PPH heat recovery steam generators, a 2,000 ton chiller and a cooling tower.  Overall the system will provide approximately 30% of a typical day’s supply of power to North and Central campus.

NC State's 11MW Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Plant

The project is being completed through a performance contract with Ameresco, Inc., and it will officially open and change over to N.C. State ownership on November 14, 2012.  The Clean Power and Industrial Energy Efficiency team at the N.C. Solar Center assisted with this project by providing initial project feasibility analysis and technical assistance.  Learn more about how this project helps achieve N.C. State University’s Sustainability goals.


Dialogue On Investment in Industrial Energy Efficiency and Combined Heat & Power Underway in the Southeast

Posted on: October 10th, 2012 by shannon No Comments


The U.S. Department of Energy Southeast Clean Energy Application Center co-hosted a workshop with the Industrial Energy Efficiency Network for Southeast utilities and major industrials on September 25th in Nashville, Tennessee.   The one-day workshop connected nearly 40 manufacturing corporate energy managers and energy utility energy efficiency program design managers for a one on one conversation concerning utility incentives for energy efficiency and combined heat & power systems.   Southeast industry was represented by a broad range of participants from Frito-Lay Inc., Saint-Gobain, Olin Chemical, Michelin Tire, Nissan North America Inc, Bonnell Aluminum, Johnson Controls, Honda Manufacturing and McKee Foods.  Southeast utility representatives from Tennessee Valley Authority, Duke Energy, Alabama Power, Georgia Power and Southern Company were in attendance.

On January 24th, 2013, The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, in conjunction with the State and Local Energy Efficiency Action Network (SEE Action Network) is convening a southeast regional dialogue meeting on Industrial Energy Efficiency & Combined Heat and Power in Little Rock, AR.  The meeting will be a part of a series with two regional workshops hosted in Baltimore, MD on March 13, 2013 and in the Western United States in May, 2013.  These workshops will gather state energy officials, industry, utilities and other stakeholders to discuss strategies to meet the objectives outlined in the August 30, 2012 Executive Order – Accelerating Investment in Industrial Energy Efficiency.  The Executive Order sets a goal of 40 gigawatts of new, cost-effective industrial CHP in the U.S. by 2020, it directs the agencies, including DOE, with convening stakeholders, through a series of public workshops, to develop and encourage the use of best practice State policies and investment models that address the multiple barriers to investment in industrial energy efficiency and CHP.  Discussions will cover developing and implementing state best practice policies and investment models that address the multiple barriers to greater investment in industrial energy efficiency and combined heat and power (CHP).

Click here for more information on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Southeast Industrial Energy Efficiency & Combined Heat and Power Regional Dialogue Meeting

The N.C. Solar Center hosts the U.S. DOE Southeast Clean Energy Application Center (SE-CEAC) as part of its Renewable Energy, Clean Power and Industrial Efficiency program.  The SE-CEAC promotes market development for CHP throughout the Southeast region as a clean distributed energy resource. As part of this the SE-CEAC supports policy analysis and barrier removal, as well as education and outreach resources. Together the N.C. Solar Center and SE-CEAC combine efforts to work with legislators, regulatory commissions, state and local government officials, and their staffs to educate them on effective CHP policies and existing barriers that need addressed.