Archive for January, 2013

North Carolina State Government Exceeds Petroleum Displacement Goals

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

Annual report documents use of alternative transportation fuels, efficiency and conservation


RALEIGH, N.C. – The North Carolina FY 2011-2012 Petroleum Displacement Program Report documents over 5.2 million gallons of gasoline and diesel displaced through the use of alternative transportation fuels, as well as efficiency and conservation measures. Thirty –six state agencies representing over 27,800 vehicles took action in FY 2011-12 to reduce petroleum use as part of a special budget provision passed in FY 04-05 that requires a 20 percent displacement of petroleum use in state fleets by 2016. The N.C. Solar Center prepares a report on progress in meeting the goal for the State Energy Office that is submitted annually to the Joint Legislative Commission on Government Affairs and the General Assembly’s Fiscal Division. As determined through a baseline of fuel use established in 2005, the state fleets exceeded the petroleum displacement goal of 4.6 million gallons in FY 2011-2012.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Approximately 2.5 million gallons of fuel were saved through conservation (reduced number of miles driven) and efficiency measures, which include driver training and vehicle replacement/reassignment to achieve improved fuel economy for each mile driven. With fuel prices hovering at $3.00 per gallon on the state purchasing contract in FY 2011-12, conservation and efficiency achievements represent over $8,000,000 in savings to the state in 2012 dollars.
  • Eighteen state agencies used over 7.4 million gallons of B20 (a blend of 20 percent biodiesel, a cleaner burning renewable fuel that can be used in any diesel vehicle and 80 percent diesel). With over 100 B20 fueling sites across the state, the N.C. Dept. of Transportation has been one of the country’s largest users of bio-based fuel for over a decade.
  • Almost 5 percent of petroleum displacement was accomplished through the use of E10, a blend of 10 percent ethanol with gasoline. In 2012, the state purchasing contract eliminated gasoline that does not include a 10 percent blend of ethanol.
  • The state operates over 7,600 E85-capable flex fuel vehicles that used 418,000 gallons of E85 during the last fiscal year.


“While there are many recommendations to enhance state fleet efforts,” said principal report author, Marcy Bauer of the N.C. Solar Center’s Clean Transportation program, “we are encouraged by the state fleet participation in the petroleum displacement program and look forward to continued progress.”

Read the 2011-2012 report



About the North Carolina Solar Center

The North Carolina Solar Center, as part of the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University (NCSU) advances a sustainable energy economy by educating, demonstrating and providing support for clean energy technologies, practices, and policies. It serves as a resource for innovative, green energy technologies through technology demonstration, technical assistance, outreach and training. For more information about the N.C. Solar Center visit:  Twitter: @NCSolarCenter

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

Time for private purchases of renewable power

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


Five years ago, North Carolina became the first state in the Southeast to set a renewable energy and efficiency standard. The 12.5 percent by 2021 standard is a great goal, and we should keep raising the bar.

In the meantime, by changing a key regulation, the state can bring more business to North Carolina, increase energy independence and help residents buy the power they choose without government interference.

The renewable energy industry has been a boon to North Carolina’s economy. More than 500 companies are involved in the solar industry in the state, producing components, installing solar arrays and providing thousands of high-quality, high-tech jobs. Last year, solar-cell developer Semprius opened a manufacturing facility in Henderson, where it plans to hire more than 250 employees.

In addition, North Carolina is home to over 2,000 wind industry employees. Large multinational companies, including ABB and PPG, are creating high-tech materials and technologies that keep wind turbines spinning throughout the country. Strong renewable energy standards like North Carolina’s are helping to build up supply chains and keep energy jobs here on our shores.

Renewable energy can also draw new business to the state. Apple made headlines last year when it decided to build its newest data center in Maiden. The company since has gone out of its way to procure renewable energy for the facility, but there’s just not enough green power on the grid. Instead, Apple is building the nation’s largest private solar arrays and a biogas-powered fuel cell system that will provide more than 60 percent of the data center’s power.

Apple isn’t alone in its commitment to renewable energy. In fact, a recent report from Ceres, WWF and Calvert Investments shows that a majority of Fortune 100 companies have set a renewable energy goal, a greenhouse gas reduction goal, or both.

Of course, not every company can afford to build its own power plants. As a result, the report notes that companies are increasingly entering into long-term power purchase agreements with renewable energy developers. This way, they get the power they want – often solar panels installed right on their own rooftops – without the financial and technical burden of owning and maintaining the panels themselves.

Unfortunately, this private sector solution to financing renewable energy is currently forbidden in North Carolina. Apple has the capital to build its own power plants, but many other businesses do not. Why should state law stand in the way of letting a business or homeowner use the free market to choose which electric power to buy?

If North Carolina wants to draw more businesses to the state – businesses that are committed to renewable power – it should remove this barrier to free enterprise and local energy.

North Carolina has only begun to scratch the surface of its renewable power potential. Studies show that the state has the technical potential to generate almost 22 percent of its current electricity use from solar power, and the Department of Energy projects that the state will build up 10,000 megawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030. With better policies in place, we can unlock that potential more quickly.

Of course, there are always opposing opinions on what the future of energy should look like. Outside groups are beginning to pressure states to abandon their renewable energy standards, claiming that renewable power is more expensive than fossil fuel power.

But when renewable energy opponents criticize its cost, they’re sorely out of date. Solar panel costs have dropped by about 80 percent over the past five years. And once a solar or wind farm is constructed, there’s no long-term cost for fuel. Coal and natural gas prices can be volatile, but the wind and sun are always free. In fact, last February, Michigan regulators found that building renewable energy resources costs less than new coal-fired power.

Keeping a strong renewable energy standard is good for jobs and businesses, and it’s time the state allow citizens to buy the power they want by allowing independent power purchases. When you get beyond short-term thinking and start looking at long-term value, it’s clear that renewable energy is the right investment for North Carolina.


By Matthew W. Patsky, Raleigh News & Observer

New case study examines integrating solar energy into historic districts

Posted on: January 16th, 2013 by shannon No Comments


The Managing Expectations case study examines common impediments to integrating solar energy into historic districts, how communities worked to overcoming such challenges, steps along the way in which stakeholder engagement was cultivated and adaptability of lessons learned to other communities. Portland, Oregon and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma have been chosen as examples of communities who have successfully integrated solar into their respective local historic preservation policies.

This case study was created as part of the N.C. Solar Center’s efforts under the SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative. As a member of this partnership, the N.C. Solar Center provides information and technical expertise to local governments interested in implementing solar programs and policies.


Feds to explain test of NC coastal wind farms

Posted on: January 9th, 2013 by shannon No Comments

WILMINGTON, N.C. — The Obama administration is holding public meetings as it gauges commercial interest in wind farms off North Carolina’s northern Outer Banks and Cape Fear.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is holding a meeting Wednesday in Wilmington. A similar meeting was held Monday at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head.

The government said last month it wanted to hear who would be interested in leasing blocks of ocean to build and operate offshore wind farms in three potential areas. One area is six miles off Kitty Hawk, while the other two are seven miles and 13 miles at sea south of Wilmington.

Federal officials picked those spots because they are attractive for commercial offshore wind development while also protecting natural resources and minimizing conflicts with military operations, shipping and fishing.

N.C. Solar Center staff helped to coordinate presentations at two of the open house events, which included the following:

  • Offshore Wind 101 – Jen Banks, NC Solar Center
  • Background for NC Offshore Wind – Bob Leker, State Energy Office
  • Why North Carolina and the Southeast – Brian O’Hara, Southeastern Coastal Wind Coalition


Reposted from the Raleigh N&O/ASsociated Press

Fuquay-Varina company goes solar

Posted on: January 7th, 2013 by shannon No Comments


The Bob Barker Co. is going green in a big way.

The detention center supply company has transformed a large section of the roof of its distribution and manufacturing center on Purfoy Road into a solar-panel system that will generate about 500 kilowatts of power a year.

It’s the same size as the solar farm on top of the Raleigh Convention Center, which is the 10th largest in the state.

The Bob Barker Co. will use the electricity to power the distribution center, a move that is expected to eventually cut the company’s electric bills by more than half.

The site uses about 1.2 million kilowatt hours a year, and the solar panels will generate about 700,000 kilowatt hours, said Nancy Johns, vice president of social responsibility and the daughter of the company’s founder, Bob Barker.

The idea to install solar panels has been in the works for years, but the technology has only recently become more affordable, Johns said.

The company paid about $1.5 million to install 1,963 photovoltaic panels that cover half of the roof, she said. It could take about six years for the company to start seeing a return on the investment.

The system began generating power on Dec. 20, and the company will have an official ribbon cutting ceremony on Jan. 18.

“We are a family-owned company and as part of a family-owned business, you tend to think more about the next generation,” Johns said. “That type of thinking leads us to think more about our impact on our community and environment.”

The company has a “Green Team” of employees from different departments who come up with ways to recycle more and reduce their energy footprint. One worker is partnering with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to repurpose the company’s vinyl scraps into over-the-chair folder pockets for students.

The company’s roof system is expected to cut carbon dioxide emissions by about 500 tons a year, equal to the carbon emissions from about 100 passenger vehicles. That’s enough energy to power 4,000 televisions.

“That’s a huge impact,” Johns said. “From what I understand, we would have to plant 2,430 trees to offset the same amount of CO.”

Johns said she hopes other companies will adopt ecofriendly practices.

“It’s a really good way to go about helping to make your company better,” she said. “It’s also a great way to save money.”

On weekends when the building isn’t in use, the Bob Barker Co. will sell unused power to Duke Energy.

Solar farms are a growing trend around the state. Apple owns the largest solar panel system in North Carolina. At 40 megawatts, it dwarfs Bob Barker’s 0.5 megawatt system and the new 1.9 megawatt system at the south Cary wastewater treatment plant. The 7-acre solar farm on West Lake Road opened Dec. 21. Cary leases the land to FLS Energy, a solar business, for about $45,000 a year. The power the farm generates will eventually go back into the grid to service the treatment plant and surrounding homes.


Written by: ALIANA RAMOS, Raleigh News & Observer

NC State Awarded $9 Million to Make Installing Home Solar Energy Systems Easier, Less Expensive

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

A new grant to North Carolina State University and several partners, including the N.C. Solar Center, could make installing rooftop solar energy systems much less expensive and time consuming.

Researchers will use the five-year, $9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to design solar energy systems and installation and connection procedures that require little or no customization by homeowners and installers. The systems would set up quickly and connect to the power grid easily, while still meeting building and electrical codes.

“The high cost and hassle associated with installing home solar energy systems is a major barrier to their widespread adoption,” says Dr. Alex Huang, the lead researcher on the grant, Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the FREEDM Systems Center at NC State. “By developing standardized and easy-to-use technologies, we can significantly reduce the cost of these systems for homeowners, who would be able to install the systems themselves.”

Today, much of what homeowners spend on solar energy systems goes toward supplier overhead, inspections, permitting, installation and other so-called “soft” costs. DOE estimates these costs at $2.50 per watt, a significant amount of money for systems that typically generate several thousand watts of power.

But by creating systems that “plug and play” – universal designs akin to USB interfaces in computers – the researchers believe they can drive these costs under $1 per watt. That means a homeowner installing a 5,000-watt solar energy system could save more than $7,500 in soft costs.

Researchers will use the grant to develop standardized panel mounting systems, communication technologies, electrical wiring designs, automated permitting systems, and other cost-cutting technologies. The group will work with codes and standards organizations, electric utilities, building and electrical inspectors, and consumers to tackle the real-world challenges faced by solar energy system installers and the local authorities that set installation rules.

Leading the project will be the FREEDM Systems Center, a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center headquartered at NC State that is developing smart grid technologies.

The N.C. Solar Center at NC State, also a key player in the grant, will bring its 20-year experience in PV installer training, policy analysis, code harmonization, and market studies to help lead the effort to reduce the soft costs of the residential PV market.   N.C. Solar Center staff will conduct field testing at the NCSU Solar House for the first generation plug and play systems and PV-ready circuits. Once systems are deemed ready, staff will coordinate testing more broadly with energy consumers, as Center staff understand the residential PV market well and recognize the many stakeholder groups that are involved.  In addition, through existing work and partnerships, the N.C. Solar Center will provide valuable coordination in the development of automated permitting and inspection systems.

Others involved include the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the University of Toledo, Isofoton, ABB and Quanta Technology.

The grant is part of DOE’s SunShot Initiative, which seeks to make solar energy cost-competitive with other sources of energy by 2020.

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