Posts Tagged ‘Economic development’

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

Duke Energy commits $500 million to N.C. solar power expansion

Posted on: September 17th, 2014 by shannonhelm

Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE:DUK) is making a $500 million commitment to a major expansion of solar power in North Carolina.

The company will acquire and construct three solar facilities — totaling 128 megawatts of capacity — including the largest solar photovoltaic facility east of the Mississippi River. The three facilities will be in Bladen, Duplin and Wilson counties.

Duke also signed power-purchase agreements for five new solar projects in the state, representing 150 megawatts of capacity.

Together, the eight projects will have a capacity of 278 megawatts. The $500 million commitment includes the investment in the three facilities and the value of the five long-term power-purchase contracts.

“This is Duke Energy’s largest single announcement for solar power and represents a 60 percent increase in the amount of solar power for our North Carolina customers,” Rob Caldwell, senior vice president, Distributed Energy Resources, said in a statement Monday morning. “We are bringing large amounts of renewable energy onto our system in the most cost-effective way possible.”

The solar commitments are the result of Charlotte-based Duke’s request for proposals issued in February for new solar capacity. The company says the initiative will help further its commitment to renewable energy, diversify its energy portfolio and meet North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard.

Duke Energy will own the following projects:

  • 65-megawatt Warsaw Solar Facility developed by Strata Solar in Duplin County.
  • 40-megawatt Elm City Solar Facility developed by HelioSage Energy in Wilson County.
  • 23-megawatt Fayetteville Solar Facility developed by Tangent Energy Solutions in Bladen County.

The Warsaw Solar Facility will be the largest solar photovoltaic plant east of the Mississippi River.

“We are very excited to be working with Duke Energy on this tremendous solar project,” said Markus Wilhelm, chief executive officer of Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar. “Three years ago, we celebrated with Duke Energy at the completion of our first 5-megawatt solar farm in Cleveland County — and Strata recently passed the 325-megawatt mark with more than 65 farms generating power in the Southeast. We take a lot of pride in our work, and we are thrilled to be announcing this partnership between Strata Solar and Duke Energy on what will be the largest solar farm on the East Coast.”

Duke Energy will purchase power from these new projects:

  • Innovative Solar Systems’ 48-megawatt plant in Bladen County.
  • FLS Energy’s 48-megawatt plant in Richmond County.
  • Birdseye Renewable Energy’s 20-megawatt plant in Scotland County.
  • Birdseye Renewable Energy’s 19-megawatt plant in Cleveland County.
  • Element Power US’s 15-megawatt plant in Beaufort County.

In addition to those five power-purchase agreements, Duke Energy has signed 33 other agreements in North Carolina in 2014 for projects totaling 109 megawatts of capacity.

Duke’s RFP targeted solar facilities greater than 5 megawatts. The RFP was limited to projects that were in the company’s current transmission and distribution queue.

“We were able to pursue the most promising projects in North Carolina,” Caldwell said. “These will be among the largest solar projects in the state, allowing us to take advantage of greater size and scale.”

For projects Duke will own, the company must obtain approval from the N.C. Utilities Commission.

Duke will then take ownership of the facilities and be responsible for building and having them in operation by the end of 2015. No utilities commission approval is needed for the company’s power-purchase agreements.


Charlotte Business Journal

Buoyed By Business Deals, Solar Dominates New U.S. Cleantech Jobs

Posted on: September 3rd, 2014 by shannonhelm


A new report from the nonprofit business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) shows that more than 12,500 clean energy and clean transportation jobs were announced in the second quarter of this year (Q2’14) – more than double the number of jobs announced in the first quarter.

Solar power generation led all sectors in Q2’14 with more than 5,300 jobs announced. The wind industry posted more than 2,700 jobs, many stemming from projects that qualified for the recently expired production tax credit.

On the next-generation transportation side, electric car manufacturers Tesla and General Motors announced new jobs.

According to E2, the jump in jobs took place despite mixed signals on clean energy policies from Congress, but amidst new confidence about future clean energy growth tied to the recently announced federal Clean Power Plan that’s designed to cut carbon pollution and increase clean energy and energy efficiency.

“Businesses depend on market certainty, and clean energy businesses are no different,” says Jonathan Foster, chief financial officer of Nexant, an energy software services company, and a director of E2’s northern California chapter. “What good policies do – whether it’s AB.32 in California or the new federal Clean Power Plan – is help create market certainty.”

AB.32 requires California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Passed in 2006, the legislation is considered one of the pillars of energy policy in the U.S. that has led to thepropagation of renewable portfolio standards in general and the rise of solar power as a significant source of power generation – and jobs – in particular.

Announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in June, the Clean Power Plan will cut carbon pollution from power plants by 30% by 2030. Along the way, the policy is expected to drive growth in energy efficiency and renewable energy, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and saving American businesses and consumers an estimated $37 billion in energy costs.

According to E2’s new report, five solar companies announced significant hiring in the residential sector, expanding their existing workforce in the prime solar markets of Arizona, California, New York and Massachusetts. Each of these states has strong net-metering policies, E2 notes.

Arizona recorded the greatest number of announced jobs in the report. Solar Wind Energy Inc. announced it expects to hire at least 350 permanent jobs for a new project in San Luis, Ariz. This will come as welcome news for the solar sector in the state, which, according to a report from The Solar Foundation, took a hit on jobs last year due to layoffs after the completion of the Solana concentrating solar power plant.

California ranks second in the E2 report, thanks to announcements from the utility-scale solar industry and from 500 new jobs announced by Tesla Motors. Michigan placed third, with GM expected to add as many as 1,400 jobs producing advanced battery technologies.

Down the pike, the E2 report points to a number of developments that are likely to keep the new solar jobs coming. Over 1,000 new jobs are expected as an outgrowth of SolarCity’s $200 million acquisition of solar manufacturer Silevo. As part of the acquisition, SolarCity will build a 1 GW annual production capacity manufacturing facility in Buffalo, N.Y. About 800 new construction jobs are tied to Tenaska’s recently closed deal to build the Imperial Solar Energy Center West Project in Imperial County, Calif.

The top 10 for announced clean energy and clean transportation jobs in Q2’14 are as follows:
1. Arizona
2. California
3. Michigan
4. Utah
5. Massachusetts
6. New York
7. Nevada
8. New Mexico
9. North Dakota
10. North Carolina
For the full E2 jobs report, click here.


Solar Industry Magazine

Template Ordinance for Solar Energy Development in North Carolina

Posted on: December 18th, 2013 by shannonhelm No Comments


The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center and the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) managed the development of this template ordinance and the organization of the drafting working group. The working group consisted of representatives of the solar industry, local North Carolina planners, State Farm Bureau, N.C. Department of Agriculture, N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), N.C. Association of County Commissioners, N.C. League of Municipalities, military, University of North Carolina School of Government, N.C. Conservation Network, Duke Energy Progress, North Carolina State University Forestry, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and many others. The initial draft was developed by the Center and NCSEA in May 2013 based on a study of current North Carolina solar ordinances and available state model ordinances. Throughout the summer and fall the working group, often in the form of smaller topic-specific focus groups, worked to improve and update the existing drafts. Additionally, the Center and NCSEA hosted five public forums across the state on the development of the template ordinance. This process led to the template ordinance (updated in 2016) provided below:


Template Ordinance for Solar Energy Development in North Carolina

Click here for the solar ordinance template (includes executive summary, introduction, 30 stakeholders available for contact, sources of support for local governments, the template ordinance, and appendices of supporting information). The template is also available in Word format without introduction and contact information for editing by local governments.


Letter to Membership

Letter to membership of North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, North Carolina League of Municipalities, and the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association and communities across North Carolina


Report on The Development of the North Carolina Template Solar Ordinance

Click here for a summary of the process of developing the ordinance and the history of changes in each section of the template.


UNC Student Paper on Solar Ordinance

UNC Student research paper entitled Identifying and Confronting Challenges Associated with Solar Ordinance Implementation by UNC Template Solar Ordinance Implementation Study Team.


Click here to read the press release announcing the ordinance.


Governor McCrory proclaims June solar energy month in North Carolina

Posted on: June 4th, 2013 by shannon No Comments


Raleigh, NC– Governor Pat McCrory announced today that he has proclaimed June as Solar Energy Month in North Carolina, stressing the role the growing industry is playing in creating jobs and helping make our state and nation energy independent.

“North Carolina is home to one of the fastest growing solar industries in our nation,” said Governor Pat McCrory. “It is important that we recognize the impact the solar industry is making in our state, not only in terms of being another valuable piece to an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy plan, but also the high-quality jobs the industry creates for hardworking North Carolinians.”

Governor McCrory was joined by Strata Solar CEO Markus Wilhelm for the proclamation announcement at Strata Solar in Willow Spring, North Carolina.

The solar energy sector is expanding throughout the state, with solar farms, plants, manufacturing equipment for the solar industry, and workers installing and maintaining both large and small scale solar facilities creating critical jobs for North Carolinians. North Carolina currently has more than 500 companies working in the solar industry, and they employ about 2,000 workers.

Since 2007, more than $743 million has been invested in the solar industry, creating jobs and providing solar photovoltaic development and infrastructure.  Today more than 229 megawatts of solar energy are currently installed throughout North Carolina – sixth in the nation.

Click here to view and download a copy of the proclamation.

Italian solar company puts U.S. operations in Charlotte

Posted on: February 12th, 2013 by shannon No Comments

Siser President Guido Barbi (left) and Vice President Filippo Merlo say Italian investors are interested in getting into the U.S. solar market.

Siser USA, a solar development company established last year to give Italian firm Siser Srl access to the U.S. solar market, has established its headquarters in Charlotte.

The company currently has three employees, but it plans to hire 10 people over the next three years, according to a press release from the Charlotte Chamber.

Guido Barbi, president of the fledgling company, says it chose Charlotte for its “excellent infrastructure, particularly the international airport; an attractive business environment and convenient time zone to Europe; affordable living costs; and high quality of life.” He says Siser also has a partnership with Jetion Solar U.S. Corp., the U.S. subsidiary of a Chinese panel that has its U.S. headquarters in Charlotte. The chamber says Jetion helped bring the Siser USA here.

Siser’s parent company has installed more than 50 megawatts of solar projects in Italy, Germany, Spain and Eastern Europe during the last five years.

Siser will offer services that include plant design, equipment selection, permitting and license application, financing support, installation and maintenance. Its office is at 11111 Carmel Commons Blvd., Suite 112.


Written bu John Downey, Charlotte Business Journal

The Clean Energy Economy is Expanding in North Carolina

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


North Carolina’s strong commitment to develop a sustainable energy economy offers the cleantech industry the right conditions for success.  State policy includes the first and only Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard in the Southeast and some of the best cleantech tax credits in the country.  These factors, along with our strong workforce, industry leadership, and high quality of life have combined to result in many exciting economic development successes in 2012.

In March, China Ming Yang Wind Power Group, a leading wind turbine manufacturer in China opened its North American Research and Development Center on the Centennial Campus at N.C. State University in Raleigh.  Ming Yang will hire 15 engineers in the next year.

In August, Schletter, a leading manufacturer of solar-power mounting systems announced a production facility in Shelby that will employ 305 workers over the next three years with an average wage of $40,660 per year plus benefits.  The $27 million facility should be at full production by the end of 2016.

In September, ABB opened a new $90 million cable plant in Huntersville.  The cable is suitable for transmitting power from wind and solar farms or upgrading aging transmission lines.  ABB plans to employ 100 employees at the new Huntersville plant.  ABB currently employs close to 2,000 people in eight North Carolina locations.

Also in September, Semprius opened its new solar panel manufacturing facility in Henderson.  In the coming years, the company will employ more than 250 people in manufacturing and assembly of their high concentration photovoltaic solar panels which currently hold the record for solar module efficiency at 33.9 percent.

Semprius grand opening in Hendersonville, N.C.

The state anticipates more cleantech announcements in the months to come.  If you’re interested in learning more about cleantech manufacturing in North Carolina, please reach out to our Economic Development Program Manager, Betsy McCorkle –

Research Triangle: The New Silicon Valley of the Smart Grid?

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

We explore the 60-plus smart grid players and cutting-edge test labs and pilot projects of North Carolina’s Research Triangle.


What’s the “Silicon Valley” of smart grid?

Many would argue that would be Silicon Valley. But North Carolina’s Research Triangle might just might deserve the title.

After all, the Triangle includes nearly 60 companies doing smart grid work in the region, 20 of which are headquartered there, according to a report from Duke University (PDF). Raleigh, the city at the heart of the Triangle, has five smart grid companies headquartered there, more than any other U.S. city except San Francisco with six. (That’s one reason we chose to hold our Networked Grid 2012 conference there this April.)

And while the research didn’t get specific on jobs, the report set a conservative estimate of 3,000 in smart grid for the complex of companies, universities and government-funded projects in the Triangle’s 13-county area. That about matches the San Francisco Bay Area’s estimated 3,030 jobs in power management, energy efficiency and grid technology firms, according to a 2011 report from the Silicon Valley Leadership Forum.

While the Silicon Valley report’s headline smart grid employment figure was 12,560 jobs, 7,450 of those were in “distributed generation,” which included many of the region’s big solar power players, and another 1,850 were in batteries and energy storage. For the sake of argument, however, let’s say Silicon Valley and the Triangle are tied on smart grid jobs. What about smart grid companies?

Silicon Valley is home to some of the industry’s best-known startups (including Silver Spring Networks, TrillianteMeter and Grid Net), along with giants such as CiscoOracleEchelon,Intel and others that have a direct interest in smart grid.

But the Triangle can come back with its own list of hometown smart grid heroes like smart meter giants Elster and Sensus, which employ a combined 1,000 people in the region, along with companies like ABB, GE, Siemens, Cisco, Honeywell, Johnson Controls, and AT&T and Verizon with smart grid operations in the region.

Those are all companies that build lots and lots of hardened gear for utilities and power customers, which means they’re likely to provide good manufacturing jobs for the region that hosts them. Siemens made a $350 million commitment to nearby Charlotte, N.C. when it announced it would open a plant for its newest gas turbine built to more efficiently match the ups and downs of solar and wind power to help balance the grid.

But the companies also investing heavily in IT, both internally and via billions of dollars in acquisitions over the past several years. Itron is doubling its software development workforce in Raleigh to 400 employees. Swiss grid giant ABB has its North American headquarters near Raleigh, and this week launched its $10 million Smart Grid Center of Excellence testing lab in the city, built to put grid gear through simulated extreme weather events to see how they’ll respond.

As for government support, North Carolina brought in more than $600 million in Department of Energy smart grid stimulus grants, putting that money to work in local projects of many descriptions. Many involve Duke Energy, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., and Progress Energy, headquartered in Raleigh. Both are big spenders on smart grid projects, from smart meters and grid sensors to complex distribution automation and management systems, such as Duke’s virtual power plant project in Charlotte.

On the smart buildings front, Cisco and Duke Energy are teaming up on the Envision Charlotte project to cut energy use at public and private buildings throughout the city. And let’s not forget, Duke’s bid to acquire Progress could create the country’s largest utility, headquartered in North Carolina, enhancing the region’s appeal to would-be smart grid suitors.

Silicon Valley will continue to claim victories in some of the cutting-edge, ARPA-E-type research going on in smart grid, of course. Local startups in inverters and power electronics (EnphaseTigo Energy), high-efficiency power conversion materials and technology (Transphorm), and digital power management technology (Varentec) have capabilities that could lead to profound changes in the way grids operate.

In the Triangle, Raleigh’s FREEDM Systems Center is working on taking these types of new technologies to real-world testing and integration. Founded in 2008 with an $18.5 million National Science Foundation grant, the North Carolina State University-based center is doing R&D on such technologies as fast EV charging, solid-state transformers, energy storage and digital power grid controls.

Given that FREEDM stands for “Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management,” integrating renewable energy into the grid is an obvious focus of research at the center. Eventually, the organization wants to get a 1-megawatt “green energy hub” system up and running at its headquarters, both to prove the core technology and test out how third-party solar, wind, fuel cell, battery storage, and plug-in vehicle technologies works with it.


Written by  JEFF ST. JOHN: MARCH 8, 2012, GreenTech Media


SunEnergy1 dedicates solar project in Plymouth, N.C.

Posted on: February 2nd, 2012 by shannon No Comments

SunEnergy1’s Kenny Habul dedicated the first phase of his company’s 20-megawatt solar farm in Plymouth this week, saying he will be doing additional projects in northeastern North Carolina.

Habul spoke to a crowd of about 50 at the site Monday.

He said building in the region allows his company to have a significant local impact — making a more important contribution to the tax base than would be possible in more developed communities.

“We also filled the hotels here, we bought a lot of diesel here, we hired local businesses,” he said.

And there are advantages for SunEnergy1 as well. Building the project in the northeast part of the state, which is served by Virginia-based Dominion Power, allows his company to take advantage of selling power to the PJM Interconnect system. PJM serves the mid-Atlantic states and as far west as Ohio, and it allows SunEnergy1 to sell electricity directly to users. North Carolina requires small power producers such as Habul’s company to sell power to utilities for resale, which Habul says severely restricts solar development.

State and local politicians, community leaders and business people from the Charlotte region involved in the project, as well as potential solar investors, were among the attendees at the dedication Monday morning and were part of a larger crowd at the Vernon G. James Research and Extension Center in Plymouth that afternoon. A slideshow of the day’s events can be viewed at right.


Charlotte Business Journal by John Downey, Senior Staff Writer

Date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012, 11:39am EST

N.C. Solar Center and N.C. Dept. of Commerce exhibiting at Solar Power International 2011

Posted on: October 28th, 2011 by shannon No Comments

The N.C. Solar Center and the N.C. Dept. of Commerce are exhibiting together as the State of North Carolina at this year’s Solar Power International tradeshow and conference held in Dallas, Texas from October 17th-20th. There are many exciting new developments in the solar industry particularly in North Carolina.   To highlight these developments, daily in-booth presentations are planned from 11am and 1pm Tuesday – Thursday:

Be sure to come by to visit and learn more: Booth #2937


Tuesday, October 18th


Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster

Smart grid, advanced transportation, renewable energy, energy efficiency. North Carolina’s Research Triangle region is a leading center of today’s cleantech revolution. Learn how your company can tap into a cutting-edge initiative that’s bringing together businesses, universities and government to advance the industry in N.C.

Speaker: Wade Fulghum, Assistant Director, Economic Development Partnership, Office of Research, Innovation, and Economic Development, N.C. State University



Growth of Solar in North Carolina

Hear updates on solar policy, industry dynamics and future

Speaker: Ivan Urlaub, Executive Director, NCSEA outlook


Wednesday, October 19th



myDSIRE and Other Customized Services

Learn more about myDSIRE, solar thermal testing, financial modeling and other services offered by the N.C. Solar Center

Speakers: Steve Kalland, Executive Director, N.C. Solar Center; Amanda Vanega, Energy Policy Program Manager, N.C. Solar Center; Betsy McCorkle, Economic Development Coordinator, N.C. Solar Center



Solar Policy Trivia – presented by DSIRE

Attention all policy nerds! Take a break for some fun and networking as we test your knowledge of solar policy!

Speakers: Amanda Vanega and Amy Heinemann, Policy Analyst, N.C. Solar Center


Thursday, October 20th



Solar Energy Workforce Development

Learn about the DOE Solar Instructor Training Network’s “Train the Trainer” Program and the Renewable Energy Diploma Series offered by the N.C. Solar Center.

Speakers: Wade Fulghum, Office of Research, Innovation, and Economic Development, N.C. State University  and Betsy McCorkle, N.C. Solar Center



Annual Updates & Trends in Solar Policy – presented by DSIRE

Missed the Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s annual meeting? Come hear the DSIRE team review the year’s solar policy news.

Speaker: Amanda Vanega, N.C. Solar Center


About Solar Power International

Solar Power International (SPI) is North America’s largest, most comprehensive solar power trade show and conference. This annual, business-to-business event was the first of its kind in North America and grows bigger and better every year.

Nearly 24,000 professionals from 125+ countries attend. With one out of five attendees coming from outside the United States, SPI is truly a global event.

In 2011, over 1,200 companies from all vertical markets in the solar power spectrum will exhibit in a space of more than 1 million gross square feet.