Archive for February, 2014

Solar-powered Sandy Grove Middle School singled out as ‘Best of the Best’ in current issue of Engineering News & Record

Posted on: February 18th, 2014 by shannonhelm No Comments


LUMBER BRIDGE – Solar-powered Sandy Grove Middle School was the best K-12 education project built in the United States last year, according to a national construction industry magazine.

The Hoke County school is one of 20 widely varying projects singled out in the current issue of Engineering News & Record as “Best of the Best” in 2013.

The magazine said months of painstaking judging went into selecting the best examples of design and construction excellence among U.S. projects completed between July 2012 and July 2013.

Winners first were selected in each category in 10 regions. A different set of industry judges studied those winners to determine the national winners based on teamwork, innovation, quality and success in overcoming challenges.


Sandy Grove’s energy efficiency caught the eye of ENR’s judges

Built with more than 2,300 solar panels, the school produces 30-40 percent more energy than it uses.

Surplus energy is returned to the power grid. As such, ENR said, Hoke County is expected to save about $16 million on its energy bills over the next 40 years. That’s about the cost of the school’s construction.

The 74,000-square-foot school, which opened in August, has numerous other “green” features, including a geothermal system, which uses ground temperature as a heating and cooling source.

High-performance LED lighting is installed throughout the building as are large windows, which permit more natural lighting. Classroom furniture is made from recycled products.

The project is designed to achieve a platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating – the highest LEED level awarded by the U.S. Greeen Building Council.


The school was built through a unique public-private partnership

Firstfloor K-12 Solutions, the project’s developer, leases the land from the county while owning the building. It then leases the building and the land to Hoke County schools. The involvement of a private firm allows for tax credits the school system could not use under traditional school construction financing.

Other businesses involved in the school’s construction included SFL+a Architects of Raleigh; general contractor Metcon Inc. of Pembroke; Crawford Design Co. of Fayetteville, which did civil engineering; LHC Structural Engineers of Raleigh; and Optima of Charlotte, the mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineer.

For more information, check

‘Solarize Carborro’: Moving Forward in 2014

Posted on: February 18th, 2014 by shannonhelm No Comments


CARRBORO -An initiative to install at least 50 solar panels on the rooftops of Carrboro homes is moving forward this year.

“In the past, I thought – many of us thought – widespread adoption of solar panels on roofs was something that would occur someday in the future, but never really get there,” said Rob Pinder of Next Climate Inc., a non-profit Carrboro organization.

“But I think that, really, that time is now.”

Next Climate Inc. has been working closely with Town of Carrboro staff as well as NC Clean Energy Technology Center, a technical and research group at NC State.

Together, they created the project Solarize Carrboro. And this year, they’re taking action.

“It’s certainly feasible to get to something like a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by widespread adoption of solar panels,” said Pinder.

Pinder presented a report to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen this past Tueday night. Back in 2009, the Board passed a resolution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Carrboro.

That was the same year that a group of neighbors in Portland, Oregon banded together to negotiate a group discount from a local solar panel installer.

“The Department of Energy saw this,” Pinder said. “They thought, ‘This is a great idea. Let’s try to replicate this all over the country.”

The DOE provided assistance for expert groups to work with citizens all over the country to solarize their towns.

Right now, the Solarize project managers are reviewing proposals, and will announce a vetted installer on February 21.

Solarize hopes to start home assessments on March 1. The first big kickoff meeting will be April 2.

“The purpose of that will be to explain the program,” said Pinder, “and help people understand every aspect of the solar process so that they can make sure that their installation is a great fit for their home.”

People will also get the opportunity to sign up. It’s a limited time offer. Signups end on May 30, so that installations can be completed in time for homeowners to be eligible for a tax break at the end of the year.

The goal for this year is at least 50 homes in Carrboro. Pinder said there have been 30 inquiries already.

More information is available at

Study: N.C. solar jobs more than doubled in 2013

Posted on: February 18th, 2014 by shannonhelm No Comments


Employment in North Carolina’s solar power industry jumped 121 percent in 2013, putting the state in the top 10 nationwide for solar employees, according to a report issued this week.

“This report shows that the solar industry is putting people to work to meet a growing percentage of our energy needs with a pollution-free energy source that has no fuel costs,” says Dave Rogers, a field director with Environment North Carolina.


The “National Solar Jobs Census 2013” report says the state has about 3,100 solar employees — far behind first-place California’s 47,000 solar workers. But it was good enough to lift the state eight places from its rank in 2012, when the same report pegged N.C. solar employment at 1,400 workers.

The report was issued Tuesday by The Solar Foundation in cooperation with the GW Solar Center at George Washington University and BW Research of Carlsbad, Calif.


Flurry of installations

The jobs estimate from the national census is higher than an estimate reported last month by the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association in its “2013 N.C. Clean Energy Industry Census” report, which pegged state solar employment at a little more than 2,400 workers.

The national census ranks North Carolina fifth in the number of average homes that can be powered by the state’s solar resources, putting the number nearly 37,000.

The jump in employment was fueled by a flurry of activity that had North Carolina ranked second in the nation for the amount of new solar capacity installed last year.

“Solar is a standout job creator in North Carolina, and can continue to grow with smart policies and support from state leaders,” says Kelly Martin, a senior campaign representative with Sierra Club. “Not only has our state seen tremendous growth in solar installations, but this report confirms that those installations mean more jobs for North Carolinians.”


Charlotte Business Journal

Employment jumps, revenue flat for N.C. clean-energy companies

Posted on: February 6th, 2014 by shannonhelm


Employment in North Carolina’s clean-energy companies grew 20 percent in 2013 even though the number of companies leveled off and the revenue produced by the industry dropped marginally, according to the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association’s latest calculations.

The Research Triangle leads the state in clean-energy companies, with Charlotte remaining a distant second.

The association published its sixth North Carolina Clean Energy Industry Census this week. Employment has reached about 18,400 workers, up from the 15,200 the association estimated in 2012.

The number of companies remained about 1,100, and NCSEA estimates total revenue in the state to be just under $3.6 billion. That is down slightly for the $3.7 billion estimate a year ago.


More jobs likely

The report is based on responses from 570 of the N.C. companies in the clean-energy sector, NCSEA says.

“Importantly, all sectors of the clean energy industry anticipate adding additional jobs in 2014,” the report states. “These jobs, however, hinge on both political and market factors related to incentive access and consumer awareness.”

Three of four companies responding in the survey said streamlining the permitting process for clean-energy projects is needed in order to improve the industry and the market for clean energy. And as some legislators continue to push to end some clean-energy incentives, 54% of the companies survey identified access to incentives as a primary consideration in hiring.

“The numbers in this year’s census leave no doubt that the clean energy industry is continuing to emerge as a valuable contributor to the state’s economy,” said Ivan Urlaub, executive director for NCSEA. “It is the result of entrepreneurs, investors and workers receiving a clear message that North Carolina is ‘open for business,’ and that only comes about through good clean energy policy.”

Solar leads

The Research Triangle continues to lead the state in clean-energy companies, with 218 business locations and the equivalent of 10,082 full-time employees.

The Charlotte region ranks second with 127 business locations and 2,280 employees. The Advantage West region, surrounding Asheville, is third with 93 business locations and 1,460 employees.

The rise of the northeastern region of the state in the rankings is likely tied to the accelerated construction of solar projects in that area. Although there are just 22 business locations in that part of the state, it ranks fourth in the count of full-time employee equivalents, with 1,446.

The solar industry accounts for the largest part of clean-energy revenue in North Carolina, calculated at $1.1 billion by NCSEA. Energy-efficiency services for buildings ranks second at $985 million. Smart grid services and products account for about $611 million for third place.


Charlotte Business Journal

Chapel Hill considers solar projects on city property

Posted on: February 6th, 2014 by shannonhelm


The Chapel Hill town council has given the green light to talks about building more solar facilities on town buildings and parking lots.

While a policy must still be finalized, it could open up opportunities for private developers to lease space on municipal buildings for solar arrays or building solar parking canopies on city-owned parking lots.

Brian Callaway, the town’s energy management specialist, has been working with nonprofit Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy to develop a plan, which could allow a solar development company to lease the space on the city-owned building for the production of solar energy.

A proposed solar array system for the Homestead Aquatic Center, for example, could cost about $350,000 to build, but private developers would be able to take advantage of state and federal tax incentives for which the town is not eligible, Callaway has told town leaders.

The initiative would also boost the town’s effort to reach a goal of a 60 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from municipal operations by 2050.

North Carolina ranked No. 2 behind California in solar power capacity added in 2013.


Triangle Business Journal

NC GreenPower Celebrates 10 Years Of Increasing Access To Renewable Energy

Posted on: February 6th, 2014 by shannonhelm


Renewable energy generators have channeled hundreds of millions of kilowatt hours into the North Carolina power grid. That’s since the NC GreenPower program was founded 10 years ago.

The initiative collects donations from companies, citizens and utility customers to buy renewable energy and diversify the state’s power grid.

N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center Director Steve Kalland is on the board for NC GreenPower. He said the program has also helped utilities warm up to renewable power providers.

“In essence, NC Green Power was the training wheels for the North Carolina Renewable energy market,” Kalland said.

He said the program also laid the groundwork for utilities to actually give renewable resources, like solar power, a chance.

“Solar was, you know, much more expensive 10 years ago than it is today,” Kalland said. “And at that time, there wasn’t a lot of it that went onto the grid. There wasn’t a lot of experience with things like how to interconnect renewable resources.”

Kalland said technological advances have helped make solar energy cheaper over time, but it was NC GreenPower that helped establish rules for home and industrial solar producers to connect with the grid. This standardization made solar energy more accessible as a power resource.



ABB funding new smart grid exhibit at Marbles Kids Museum

Posted on: February 6th, 2014 by shannonhelm


The Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh has taken on the challenge of creating a smart grid for kids – the Kid Grid – to introduce children ages 3-10 to smart grid concepts.

The museum recently received a $1 million gift for the exhibit from ABB, a Switzerland-based smart grid engineering company with a Raleigh presence, to be paid out over the course of seven years. To accommodate the exhibit, the museum is expanding its footprint by 900 square feet, and Wake County is paying that cost up front through a loan of up to $700,000, says Marbles Kids Museum CEO Sally Edwards.

“What we really didn’t want to do was say, ‘We’re going to wait ’til we have all the money.’ Because the time is now,” said Edwards. “It still will be in seven years, but we need to expand capacity.”

In order to help introduce the community’s children to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts, the museum staff invited ABB employees to bring their children to the museum to play with electronics. Edwards says the museum staff was able to learn first-hand what smart grid technology is all about.


So what’s the process?

First, the shell of the building addition is construction, and that’s being handled by the county.

At the same time, the exhibit designers and fabricators are collaborating. The exhibit itself will be built in Seattle’s Pacific Studio. There, it will be tested by focus groups, then deconstructed.

The second part of the process is shipping the exhibit pieces to Raleigh and having a team from Seattle assemble it.

Until then, the museum staff anticipate handling things they didn’t account for during the planning, which they say is part of the fun.

“We don’t prescribe an outcome,” says Edwards. “Every child learns in his or her way. You still cannot predict what any child is going to do with something that is tested and tried.”

The overall hope, Edwards says, is that the Kid Grid opens the dialogue between children and parents about how we use energy, and boosts the confidence of children when it comes to engineering in academics.


Triangle Business Journal

Clean Transportation Biodiesel Education Video Release

Posted on: February 6th, 2014 by shannonhelm No Comments


Educational video highlights benefits of biodiesel


Raleigh, N.C. – An educational video highlighting the benefits of biodiesel from production to use was released earlier this month.  The N.C. Solar Center, in collaboration with Wonderland Woods, produced the informative video at three locations in North Carolina to present the most important aspects of biodiesel for fleets and individual consumers alike.  The four minute video includes a production perspective from Patriot Biodiesel, a biodiesel producer in Greensboro, NC, information about distribution via Hill Oil, the owner of a service station in Lexington, NC that offers B20 (blend of 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel) and fleet use of biodiesel from the N.C. Department of Transportation.  The N.C. Department of Transportation is one of the largest fleets in the U.S. to use biodiesel, burning about 7.5 million gallons of B20 annually.
Biodiesel is a clean burning, renewable fuel replacement for conventional diesel that is made from a variety of oils and fats.  These oils and fats can be found in various types of consumer waste streams or produced domestically within the agriculture industry.  North Carolina currently has five biodiesel production facilities, nine additional distributors and 23 retail service stations that are supplying the renewable fuel to fleets and consumers across the state.  The use of biodiesel helps reduce harmful emissions and can even prolong the life of vehicles due to increased lubricity.

The N.C. Solar Center, with support from the N.C. Department of Transportation and partners, is conducting a public education media campaign that includes electronic media and other print and outdoor advertising as part of the $6.2 M Clean Fuel Advanced Technology (CFAT) Project. The CFAT project is focused on reducing transportation related emissions in NC counties that do not meet national air quality standards. The three year project covers education/outreach, sub-award funding to purchase clean transportation technology, and recognition of exemplary activities.


To view the N.C. Solar Center biodiesel video visit:


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