Archive for 2014

Here comes the sun

Posted on: November 20th, 2014 by shannonhelm


SANFORD — Amidst talk of Duke Energy relocating coal ash to Sanford, causing significant environmental concern among residents, two development companies have announced plans to build four solar farms in Sanford by the end of 2015 — projects that are expected to produce power, broaden the county’s tax base and provide other benefits to Lee County.

This week, Lee County Board of Commissioners and the Sanford City Council discussed applications by Dennis Richter, president of Solterra Partners, on behalf of Narenco Development and Solterra Partners, to rezone 12 lots containing 200 acres located south of West Garden Street and east of Fire Tower Road for the development of solar farms. Rezoning proposals still would need approval from both boards for the project to progress.

The combined 90-acre projects would produce enough electricity to power about 33,000 homes for about a year, which is about one-third of the homes in Sanford, Richter said. That equates, he said, to about 38.9 million pounds of carbon that wouldn’t be released into the atmosphere.

“That means that 33,000 homes don’t have to rely on electricity from some conventional power plant,” Richter said. “It won’t have to be burned, because we will provide it by solar.”

The property would be leased from local landowners for about 15 years with the possibility of later extending the lease. Richter said constructing the solar farm would take about two to three months, but there would be minimal maintenance and little to no noise afterward.

After the construction, Richter said the facility would need no additional city services like water and sewer, and no toxic materials would be emitted.

At Monday’s commissioners meeting, county staff addressed the tax implications of having a solar farm in Lee County.

Michael James, a management fellow with Lee County government, said the federal government gives solar farms a 30 percent tax credit, the state gives a 35 percent tax credit with some limitations, and solar farms have an 80 percent tax exemption on real property.

But April Montgomery, the chair of the Lee County Environmental Review and Advisory Committee, clarified that the 80 percent tax exemption did not include the land — meaning the county wouldn’t lose property tax revenues as a result of solar farms.

If anything, she said solar farms actually can increase the tax value of property because of the amount of equipment on the property and the utilization of underdeveloped land.

Commissioner Jim Womack said while he isn’t opposed to alternative forms of energy, he was worried about the cost to the county if a solar company shuts down because solar panels are not easily disposed of and the ground has been disturbed.

“There’s a huge cost factor in recovery if the company goes belly up,” he said.

Amy McNeill, Sanford land use planner, said if and when such companies decide to leave, they will be required to return the land back to its original condition, which includes plowing and reseeding.

Commissioner Kirk Smith was concerned that Duke Energy would raise costs to customers as a result of the power the company purchases from the solar farms, which is more costly. He said higher energy costs also could discourage big businesses from coming to the area.

But Montgomery said based on previous discussions with Duke Energy, she believes price wouldn’t be negatively impacted.

At a Tuesday council meeting, Councilman Chas Post was encouraged by the solar farm projects and the potential benefits that they could bring to Lee County.

“This sounds significantly better than fracking and coal ash.”


Original post

Southeast Alternative Fuels Conference & Expo Draws on National Leadership

Posted on: November 11th, 2014 by shannonhelm
Regional Awards Highlight Diverse Transportation Solutions


Raleigh, N.C. (November 11, 2014) – General Duncan J. McNabb, former Commander of U.S. Transportation Command, Scott Air Force Base and Energy Security Leadership Council member for the Washington D.C. based Securing America’s Future Energy provided the keynote speech on the final day of the Southeast Alternative Fuels Conference and Expo (SEAFCE) held at the Raleigh Convention Center on October 22-24. Over 450 attendees participated in the regional event, which also provided recognition awards to organizations that are helping to drive clean transportation solutions in Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Additionally, North Carolina recognized leading fleets across the state in its 8th annual Mobile CARE awards.

As a military leader who has been in charge of all global transport on land, sea and air, General McNabb spoke from a firsthand perspective on how conflicts are “sparked by the competition for oil.” The three day conference focused on transportation technology and policies to enhance energy security and reduce emissions. The inaugural event, which included U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities coalitions in six states as its planning committee, featured three tracks with 18 breakout sessions, 60 exhibitors and 40 ride and drive vehicles including the all-electric BMW i8, Tesla, a 3-wheeled police Segway and a propane bus among others.

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Deputy Assistant Secretary Reuben Sarkar spoke about DOE initiatives to integrate research advances and deployment efforts in the transportation sector. In a plenary session discussion among state leaders, N.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Tony Tata explained how the state is enhancing commuter rail and expanding use of biodiesel in locomotives. In addition, Georgia Public Service Commissioner, Tim Echols, announced four new initiatives to expand electric vehicle adoption in Georgia including a utility led project to build public electric vehicle charging stations.

Anne Tazewell, Transportation Program Manager at the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center announced the SEAFCE Regional Awards after General McNabb’s speech. The General presented the awards to Tidewater Fiber Corporation of Virginia, M & M Cartage of Kentucky, Morgan County TN Schools, and Palmetto Gas of South Carolina. Read details of their accomplishments. Hear excerpts from General McNabb’s speech.


About the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center

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


Media Contact: Shannon Helm, NCCETC, 919-423-8340,

Big Tech May Determine Fate Of Renewable Energy In NC

Posted on: October 28th, 2014 by shannonhelm


Google, Facebook and other tech companies want more of the electricity they buy from Duke Energy to come from renewable sources.

When Apple makes an announcement – any announcement – the world stops and listens. And while it wasn’t a new product launch, when Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke last month ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit, it was a big deal.

“We have a huge data center in Maiden North Carolina,” Cook said. “There were no options to buy renewable energy. Our only way to do that, was to build it.”

What Apple built was the country’s largest private solar farm. It’s big enough to power 14,000 homes, and combined with biogas fuel cells, the company says it supplies 100 percent of the data center’s electricity needs.

Apple isn’t the only tech company with data centers in North Carolina. Google’s is just down the road in Lenoir. Facebook has one in Forest City. Disney and AT&T are nearby, too. When those companies were looking to build those facilities, North Carolina was attractive for two major reasons: huge tax incentives and cheap electricity.

“That’s one of the things that’s been very attractive about North Carolina, we can bring industry here because we do have attractive rates lower than the national average,” said Jeff Brooks, a spokesman for Duke Energy. “But when we inject that sustainability element, then they want those at affordable rates but also with options for investing in renewable.”

Data centers use massive amounts of power, 24 hours a day. Currently, about 40 percent of the electricity Duke Energy produces in the Carolinas comes from coal.

That’s becoming an increasing problem for the tech companies.

“People want to make sure that their emails and their Facebook photos and their Twitter accounts are all being run on clean clouds,” said Monica Embrey with Greenpeace in Charlotte. “And that means that tech industries that run major data centers have to be powering those data centers with clean, renewable energy sources so that their customers are happy.”

As international pressure has increased to get greener, Apple stayed close to its company’s identity and built its own renewable power production in-house. Apple did not return requests for comment.

Google went a different direction. It chose to use its purchasing power to pressure Duke Energy to provide more green power.

“We’re looking for solutions that can have the highest possible impact on the industry,” said Michael Terrell, Senior Energy Policy Counsel at Google.

When Google wanted to begin a $600 million expansion to its Lenoir data center, it pushed Duke Energy to develop something called a “Green Source Rider.” It was the first time a program had been requested by a consumer that allows a company to buy electricity that’s produced from renewable sources.

It may cost a little more, but Google hopes this strategy will blaze a trail for other electricity customers.

“And that was certainly one of our drivers with the green source rider was that, we could have done a project that was specific to us only, but we’re looking for solutions that are scalable and solutions that other people and customers can take advantage of,” said Terrell.

Last December, the North Carolina Utility Commission approved the Green Source Rider. Last month, Duke Energy announced a $500 million commitment to solar power. Duke Energy officials say the two events are unrelated, and that the renewable standards set by the state are the primary motivating factor.

But Greenpeace’s Monica Embrey thinks differently.

“I think efforts like the Green Source Rider and others are really clear indications that the tech industry is taking really seriously their commitments to advance renewable energy in the state.”

Tech companies are notoriously secretive about pretty much everything they do. But this summer, Apple quietly began construction on another solar farm in North Carolina. And Google has hinted that its Lenoir data center could expand further, in the future.

And as the data centers grow in the North Carolina foothills, so will the demand – and pressure – for renewable energy.


Dave DeWitt, WUNC

NC Smart Fleet Participants Recognized for Transportation Emission Reduction Efforts in North Carolina

Posted on: October 28th, 2014 by shannonhelm


Raleigh, N.C. (October 30, 2014) – The 8th annual N.C. Mobile CARE (Clean Air Renewable Energy) awards conducted by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) and N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) to recognize outstanding transportation related air quality leadership were announced as part of the inaugural Southeast Alternative Fuel Conference & Expo held at the Raleigh Convention Center. Nick Tennyson, NC DOT Chief Deputy Secretary made the presentations as part of an awards breakfast on October 24th.


NCCETC and N.C. DOT recognized organizations and individuals across the state that are helping to lead the way to reduced transportation-related emissions and increased efficiency. This spring, the NCCETC announced the Smart Fleet Initiative, a new branch of N.C. Mobile CARE recognition program exclusively focused on fleet commitment and accomplishments in reducing petroleum use, thus reducing CO2 emissions and other harmful emissions. North Carolina based fleets (both public and private sector) join N.C. Smart Fleet on 1 of 3 levels by completing an application.
In its inaugural year the following organizations were recognized at the awards event:

NC Smart Fleet Champions:

BuildSense, Epes Transport, Town of Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte

NC Smart Fleet Leaders:

City of Fayetteville, Gaston County, Greenleaf Nursery, Orange County, Piedmont Biofuels, Town of Cary

NC Smart Fleet Supporters:

City of Charlotte- Solid Waste, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, City of Concord, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Piedmont Triad Regional Council, Town of Apex, Town of Kernersville, Town of Knightdale

“In order to reduce emissions and enhance transportation efficiency it’s essential to account for fuel use and undertake efforts to conserve and use more low carbon fuels. We are proud in our inaugural year to be recognizing 18 fleets for their initiatives in reducing fuel use and increasing fuel diversity,” said Anne Tazewell, transportation manager at NCCETC.

To learn more about the N.C. Smart Fleet Participants click here.


About the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center

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


Center Awarded Clean Energy Training Provider of the Year Award

Posted on: October 22nd, 2014 by shannonhelm
Third Award Received for Training Programs in 2014


Las Vegas, October 22 – The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) was presented the Clean Energy Training Provider of the Year award by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) during Wednesday evenings 3i Forum at the Solar Power International conference in Las Vegas, NV.

The IREC 3i Award is a prestigious national award within the renewable energy industry that celebrates forward-thinking individuals, programs and institutions that display innovation, ingenuity and inspiration.

“With these awards we recognize innovative solutions to solving tough problems; we salute the ingenuity of those who think outside the box to advance the use of clean energy; and we thank those who inspire others to make a difference,” said IREC Board Chair David Warner.
This is the third award received by the Center’s Training Programs this year. In April, NCCETC received the local City of Raleigh Regional Sustainability Award for its decades-long efforts in developing the clean energy workforce that has helped make North Carolina one of the top states nationally in solar capacity. On October 1st, it received the NC Sustainable Energy Association’s Award for Community Leadership for its Renewable Energy Technologies Diploma Series program.

“The Renewable Energy Technologies Diploma Series program has been a leader in interdisciplinary and comprehensive renewable energy training for a decade,” said Steve Kalland, Executive Director of the NCCETC. “We’ve always known that as a Center, we have been the hub of quality continuing education in the nation. It feels good to be recognized not just by the City of Raleigh and our state peers at NCSEA, but by a national organization like IREC. We’ve worked hard for this.”

The Renewable Energy Technology Diploma Series is the flagship training program of the Center. It celebrates its 10th year anniversary this year.


About the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center

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

Center staff to present and exhibit at Solar Power International 2014 this week

Posted on: October 20th, 2014 by shannonhelm


The educational conference and expo will be held October 20-23 in Las Vegas. The Center will be exhibiting at booth #763, and will be representing North Carolina as a great solar state!


Several Center staff will be also presenting at the conference this year:
Tommy Cleveland, Renewable Energy Project Coordinator, will be speaking about N.C.’s template solar ordinance in the State Based roundtable session.
Jim Kennerly, Senior Policy Analyst, will be presenting two educational posters titled:

“Harmonizing Permitting and Interconnection Processes: Approaches from Leading State and Local Governments”

“Removing Net Metering Caps and Expanding Customer Access: Best Practices for Creating Equitable & Revenue-Neutral Programs”

Autumn Proudlove, Policy Analyst, will be presenting an educational poster titled:
“Encouraging Solar PV Development Through Renewable Energy Tariffs for Large Utility Companies: Key Considerations and Emerging Practices”

• Brian Lips, DSIRE Project Manager, will be discussing the next version of the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, at the Center booth.

New Resources for Promoting Solar-Friendly North Carolina Homeowners’ Associations

Posted on: September 30th, 2014 by shannonhelm


RALEIGH, NC (September 30, 2014) -– Working under the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership, the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center (formerly the N.C. Solar Center) and The Solar Foundation today announced the release of two new resources for North Carolina homeowners’ associations. The first, a short brochure entitled The Benefits of Going Solar: A Resource for North Carolina Homeowners’ Associations, outlines the substantial financial and environmental benefits attached to investments in residential solar. Complementing this resource is a set of model design guidelines aimed at providing HOAs with a strong starting point for developing their own solar policies.

North Carolina currently has just over 11 megawatts of residential solar photovoltaic capacity, with about 15 percent of this total installed in the first half of 2014 alone. As demand for residential solar continues to grow across the state, more homeowners’ associations are finding the need to adopt design rules that accommodate their residents’ desire to “go solar” while still protecting legitimate competing community interests. To help fulfill this need, the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center and The Solar Foundation are leading an educational outreach campaign for HOAs throughout North Carolina. With these resources, HOA board members and architectural review committees will better understand the benefits solar can provide to their communities and get a head-start on drafting solar-friendly design guidelines that also address the legitimate concerns of the community.

“What we are finding with many community associations is that they are generally receptive to seeing more residential solar, but are unsure how to allow this development to occur in a balanced way,” said Philip Haddix, Program Director with The Solar Foundation. “It is our hope that our model guidelines and continued efforts to engage associations across the state will go a long way in helping folks better understand and think through these issues.”

Last Thursday, representatives from the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, The Solar Foundation, and the Rose Walk HOA in Carrboro presented on the role of HOAs in solar development at the North Carolina Community Associations Institute (N.C. CAI) conference in Durham. A large number of copies of both documents were distributed to attendees and the messages and recommendations conveyed within were well-received.

“If the residential solar market is going to take off like utility-scale solar has here in North Carolina, we’ll need to minimize barriers,” said Autumn Proudlove, Policy Analyst at the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center. “We hope that HOAs will utilize these resources to create their own solar guidelines that facilitate solar installations while addressing other community interests.”

To obtain a copy of these resources, please click here. North Carolina community associations interested in learning about these efforts and possibly receiving assistance in bringing more solar to their communities can contact Philip Haddix ( or Autumn Proudlove (


About the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center

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

About The Solar Foundation

The Solar Foundation (TSF) is a leading provider of high-quality economic impact analyses on the solar industry, a trusted technical assistance provider for public sector implementation, and a solar schools champion. Founded in 1977 as an independent nonprofit, its mission is to increase understanding of solar energy through strategic research that educates the public and transforms markets. While TSF recognizes that solar energy is a key part of our energy future, it is committed to excellence in its aim to help the public fairly and objectively gauge the value of the solar industry worldwide. More at:


Duke Energy Invests Big In Solar

Posted on: September 18th, 2014 by shannonhelm


Duke Energy is investing $500 million in solar power generation in North Carolina.

Three new large-scale solar facilities will be built in Bladen, Wilson, and Duplin Counties. The 65 megawatt facility in Duplin will be the largest solar plant east of the Mississippi.

Due to a state law passed in 2007, Duke and other utilities must source at least 12.5 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2021.

“We choose solar today because solar is the cheapest renewable energy certificate available to us,” said Duke Energy Vice President Rob Caldwell.

Duke’s strategy is to own and operate its own solar energy production by building large-scale facilities. Other states have allowed more power generation to come from individual home solar operations.

“It’s a banner day in North Carolina if you’re a large-scale solar developer and you’re a part of this team,” said Steve Kalland, the director of the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center. “I don’t know that we’ve seen anything like this in the eastern part of the United State, anywhere.”

Next year, the Legislature is likely to debate and possibly change many of the renewable energy rules it passed in 2007.

“I would say that North Carolina remains today the leader in the southeast and one of the leaders in the country, at this point, in solar development,” said Kalland. “The big issue to keep an eye on is if we can hold that position. There’s a lot of policy in North Carolina that is up for discussion in the next year.”

Duke’s three new solar power facilities should be up and running by the end of 2015.


Listen to the recorded report from WUNC

Obama pushes energy efficiency, rural solar power

Posted on: September 18th, 2014 by shannonhelm


The Obama administration unveiled a slew of actions Thursday aimed at improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of solar power in homes and businesses, including $68 million in spending.

The White House said the actions would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 300 million metric tons by 2030, the equivalent of 60 million cars’ emissions in a year. They will also save $10 billion in energy costs.
The actions, together with commitments from states, communities, companies and others, are part of President Obama’s second-term push to reduce carbon emissions in an effort to mitigate climate change.

They follow other recent efforts to help the solar power industry, including a series of announcements in April to spur solar deployment, a White House-hosted summit on solar power and a May decision to install solar power panels on the White House.

The Department of Agriculture will spend $68 million on 540 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in rural areas, 240 of which are for solar power. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will announce the program, the White House said.

Veterans are also a target of Thursday’s announcements. The Energy Department’s program to train technicians to design and install solar power infrastructure will open programs at up to three military bases this fall.

At the Department of Housing and Urban development, officials will seek to give a boost to renewable energy in affordable housing communities by clarifying that one of its funding programs for economic development can be used for clean energy and energy efficiency projects.

The Energy Department will certify a new set of building codes and propose energy efficiency standards for commercial unit air conditioners, the White House said.

The commitments from outside of the federal government to deploy solar power and improve efficiency “represent more than 35 megawatts of solar deployed — enough energy to power thousands of homes — as well as energy efficiency investments that will lower energy bills for more than 400 million square feet of buildings,” officials said.

Some of the commitments involve installing solar power in communities or at corporate buildings. 3M Co., Cisco Systems Inc., Kimberly-Clark Corp. will give discounts to employees who buy solar equipment.


The Hill

What the Duke Energy project means for Strata Solar and N.C.

Posted on: September 17th, 2014 by shannonhelm

The $500 million, 550-acre, 850,000 solar panel project announced by Duke Energy on Monday will be the biggest solar project in North Carolina – and east of the Mississippi River – but it means more for economic development than for Strata Solar, or the market itself.

John Morrison, vice president of marketing and sales for Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar says it doesn’t change the scale of projects the company will proceed with.
“It’s certainly much, much bigger than what we’ve done historically,” he says. “But we’ll continue in the same vein we’ve been in. We’ll continue to build the sort of solar we’ve been doing here in North Carolina.”
While that means bringing a new solar farm online every 10 days, they tend to be in the range of 5-8 megawatts, powering around 600 homes. The Duke Energy farm will consist of 80 megawatts, enough to power 10,000 homes over the course of a year.

Morrison says it’s mostly about the economic development, creating 300-500 jobs in areas of the state that are rural and where jobs are hard to come by. And while careers are being built, the project won’t elevate North Carolina’s ranking among the top solar states in the nation.

“There are lots of states and regions that recognize the economic development benefit that comes from solar,” says Morrison. “There are other states and regions watching the state, like Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Virginia. I’m sure they’d like to see similar investments. This growth in the state has been in the past three years. Strata Solar is approaching $2 billion in solar investments in North Carolina. I mean, four years ago, nobody would have dreamed that would be possible. But this project won’t change our ranking among other states. It will help us hold our own as solar continues to become cheaper.”


Triangle Business Journal