Archive for 2012

Offshore Wind Energy Advancing in North Carolina

Posted on: December 13th, 2012 by shannon No Comments
Federal Agency Announces Call for Information and Nominations

 

RALEIGH, N.C. – The N.C. Solar Center is pleased that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has released the Call for Information and Nominations for potential offshore wind leasing areas offshore from North Carolina.  As a member of BOEM’s North Carolina Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force, the N.C. Solar Center has been involved in advancing these efforts over the last two years.

“The benefits to North Carolina from offshore wind development and the associated economic development from the industry’s supply chain are tremendous,” said Jen Banks, Wind Energy Project Coordinator at the N.C. Solar Center.

With 195 whole and 60 partial lease blocks, North Carolina has the largest Call Area released to date under the Department of the Interior’s Smart from the Start program.  BOEM also announced a Notice of Intent (NOI) for an Environmental Assessment covering these areas, which will provide valuable information for refining the areas to eventually be offered for commercial leasing.

Many coastal communities recognize the potential from such projects.  Vann Rogerson, President and CEO of North Carolina’s Northeast Commission, states “renewable energy developments are a great opportunity for the rural regions of the state – and we are very excited about the opportunities surrounding offshore wind.”

The public comment period for the Call and the NOI will be open for 45 days.  During this time, the Solar Center will host informational sessions on the basics of offshore wind preceding each BOEM public information meeting at the coast.  We will provide all details on these events once the dates are set.

Click here for the full BOEM press release.

 

About the North Carolina Solar Center

The North Carolina Solar 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. Solar Center visit: http://www.ncsc.ncsu.edu.  Twitter: @NCSolarCenter
Media Contact: Shannon Helm, N.C. Solar Center, 919.423.8340, slhelm@ncsu.edu

Contact: Jen Banks, N.C. Solar Center, 919.515.3799, jlbanks@ncsu.edu

Contact: Vann Rogerson, N.C.’s Northeast Commission, 252-482-4333, vrogerson@ncnortheast.com

Annual Update on Combined Heat and Power in North Carolina for 2012

Posted on: December 12th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

North Carolina saw an active combined heat and power (CHP) market in 2012 with five projects totaling 13 megawatts (MW) of electric capacity installed in the state.   Of these projects, four are renewable biomass fueled CHP systems that are located on industrial sites and provide large amounts of process steam from recovered heat.  One example of a completed project is a biomass fueled CHP installation at a Pfizer plant in Sanford, which generates 250 kilowatts of power and 30,000 pounds per hour of steam, equivalent to approximately 8.8 megawatts of thermal energy.

The N.C. Solar Center’s Clean Power & Industrial Efficiency provided a range of technical and policy support to four of the new CHP projects during their development through its role as a University Energy Center and headquarters for the U.S. DOE Southeast Clean Energy Application Center (SE-CEAC).

Backpressure steam turbines such as this one at a NC industrial site supply onsite electric power from steam that's produced with renewable biomass

Backpressure steam turbines such as this one at a NC industrial site supply onsite electric power from steam that's produced with renewable biomass

Looking ahead to 2013 and beyond, there are at least eight CHP projects planned in North Carolina, representing 45 MW of capacity, with as much as 36 MW of that potentially fueled by renewable biomass.  This development trend is partly explained by the addition of CHP as an eligible technology for North Carolina’s 35 percent Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2011.  Another influence is activity by the state’s investor owned utilities to comply with North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard by contracting for purchase of electricity and renewable energy credits (RECs) from renewable sources.

Two unique CHP projects currently under development in North Carolina will be powered by biomass and landfill gas systems; at Reventure Park and UNC Chapel Hill’s Carolina North Campus.

ReVenture Park’s 1.5 MW CHP project in Charlotte, NC received an air-quality permit from Mecklenburg County this Fall.  The CHP system is part of a plan to redevelop a 700-acre former EPA Superfund site into a clean energy fueled eco-industrial and business park.   ReVenture intends to use a technology called gasification, primarily fueled in this case by waste sawdust, that yields a clean burning organic gas as fuel for an engine generator.  ReVenture has contracted with Electricities, the state’s public power membership organization, to purchase the power output from the plant.  The recycled heat generated from the system will be used to dry other wood fuel, making it more viable for use in boilers converted to use biomass.   The CHP project will be the first of its kind in Mecklenburg County, and is expected to be complete in 2013.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is proposing to build a 1 MW CHP system into a central utility plant for its planned 250-acre research and mixed-used academic campus, Carolina North.  The CHP system will support the campus’s sustainability goals to use renewable energy energy and conserve water, as well as reducing air emissions that contribute to carbon footprint.  UNC-CH’s project will be fueled by methane gas from the Orange County landfill that is currently being flared, releasing heat to the atmosphere.  The landfill gas piping and CHP generator is expected to be complete in the coming year, according to Carolina North’s Annual Report on development, and will be ready to provide heat and power for the campus’s buildings as they are completed.

Growing awareness of the opportunity to invest in CHP systems for business, industry and government facilities is expected to lead to further project successes in the state.  As such, an industry group, the North Carolina CHP Initiative, has begun forming to represent CHP businesses and help potential end-users to connect with experts and find available resources.

 

N.C. Solar Center’s Clean Power Team Supports DOE Southeast Industrial EE & CHP Dialogue

Posted on: December 12th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

 

The Southeast Clean Energy Application Center, a project of the N.C. Solar Center’s Clean Power & Industrial Efficiency Program, is supporting a Southeast Regional Dialogue Meeting on Industrial Energy Efficiency & Combined Heat and Power being hosted in Little Rock, Arkansas on January 24th, 2013, by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, in conjunction with the State and Local Energy Efficiency Action Network (SEE Action Network).  The meeting is part of a series of regional dialogues gathering industry, utility, public utility commission representatives, state energy officials and other stakeholders to discuss policy strategies to accelerate investments in these strategies to increase competitiveness of industry.   Representatives from the North Carolina organizations, including the North Carolina Utilities Commission and Duke Energy, will participate alongside regulatory and utility representatives from throughout the Southeast region.

Two other workshops are being held that support the state energy policy oriented objectives of the August 30, 2012 Executive Order on Accelerating Investment in Industrial Energy Efficiency , including one in Baltimore, MD on March 13, 2013 and in the Western United States in May, 2013.  The Executive Order sets a goal of 40 gigawatts of new, cost-effective industrial CHP in the U.S. by 2020.   It directs several federal agencies, including DOE, with convening stakeholders 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 through a series of public workshops.  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 an agenda and more information on this meeting.

CHP is essential to Eastman Chemical’s Kingsport, Tennessee operations; Photo Courtesy of Eastman Chemical Company

CHP is essential to Eastman Chemical’s Kingsport, Tennessee operations; Photo Courtesy of Eastman Chemical Company

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.

Aim of N.C. Solar Center’s Clean Transportation Program Reinforced by National Strategy for Energy Security Report

Posted on: December 12th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

Education, outreach and deployment of alternative fuel and advanced vehicle technologies were highlighted in a report released December 3rd in Washington D.C. by the Energy Security Leadership Council (ESLC). Anne Tazewell, Clean Transportation Program Manager, attended the press conference and panel discussion that included the CEOs of Fed Ex and Waste Management, as well as retired U.S. admirals and generals who are especially sensitive to national security issues related to U.S. over reliance on petroleum in the transportation sector.

The morning event was also attended by two U.S. Senators: Lemar Alexander (R,TN) and Roy Blount (R, MO) who spoke about legislation they have recently introduced to establish fuel neutral deployment communities in small to medium size cities. Given the focus of the N.C. Solar Center’s Clean Transportation program and North Carolina’s three Clean Cities Coalitions  on reducing barriers to more widespread adoption of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs), North Carolina is in an excellent position to fulfill the 2013 report’s deployment communities’ recommendation. In the end, “if consumers do not believe that it will be cost effective and easy to own and operate an AFV, they are unlikely to buy one.  Using local communities as a “petri dish” to learn what works and doesn’t work will go a long way to insuring nationwide success.”

The Council is bullish on increasing electricity and natural gas in transportation, as well as R & D for advanced biofuels and battery technology. Waste Management (WM) CEO, David Steiner spoke about how they are turning landfill gas into energy. WM has developed technology that is not only using landfill gas to power buildings, but also its transportation fleet.  Steiner stated, “We don’t just need R & D, we need deployment [funding] to see if this works to scale.”

Accounting for 37 percent of energy demand in 2011, the report notes that petroleum has a larger share of energy demand than any other fuel. The 126-page document states that “U.S. spending on petroleum fuels, which topped $890 billion in 2011, currently accounts for approximately three quarters of total spending on energy.”  Moreover, “this year’s deficit in oil trade is expected to once again surpass $300 billion with global oil prices near record levels amid instability in the Middle East and North Africa.”  What this means is that U.S. consumers continue to subsidize the incomes of other countries, many of whom don’t like the United States.

In summary the bipartisan group highlighted a comprehensive approach to transportation energy security.  While expanding U.S. production is needed, Admiral Dennis Blair, Former Director of National Intelligence and Commander in Chief U.S. Pacific Command, called for high standards and rigid enforcement to insure that natural gas and oil drilling is done in the most responsible manner possible. The Council also calls out transportation fuel diversity through a multi-prong approach as critical to our nation’s future.

The report which is posted on the Council’s website  is an important guide to harnessing American resources and innovation.

Establishing a Wind Powered Economic Zone

Posted on: December 11th, 2012 by shannon No Comments
North Myrtle Beach Reaches for Offshore Wind


On November 19, the City of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina officially became a “wind-powered economic zone” by proclamation of a City Council resolution.  This resolution represents true leadership in the realm of clean energy and a genuine effort to better the community through economic development, community pride, and environmental protection.

By becoming a wind powered economic zone, North Myrtle Beach hopes to be able to provide the equivalent of 100% of its power usage from a nearby offshore wind farm in the not-too-distant future.  A couple implications herein deserve recognition.

Firstly, by inviting the development of a nearby offshore wind farm, the city is opening the door to local economic development and job creation since a nearby wind farm would need a local workforce to install, operate, and maintain the wind farm.  Secondly, by powering the city with renewable energy, businesses that have adopted renewable energy goals — such as South Carolina industry leaders like Boeing and BMW — can locate operations within the city and meet their energy goals automatically.  Businesses located within this wind powered economic zone can also market themselves as wind powered, which gives them an edge with environmentally conscious consumers and with businesses with green procurement standards. In fact, North Myrtle Beach has annexed a considerable swath of land ready to welcome businesses and developers. Furthermore, the stretch of Intracoastal Waterway between the Little River inlet and the city would be perfect for housing the fleet of operations and maintenance vessels that will regularly visit the wind farm.

Who says wind energy and tourism don't mix? Here is one of the three city-owned wind turbines operating in North Myrtle Beach.

Who says wind energy and tourism don't mix? Here is one of the three city-owned wind turbines operating in North Myrtle Beach.

The resolution also declared the formation of a stock company to invest in a transmission cable that will help bring the power onshore from an offshore wind farm. The North Strand Coastal Wind Team, the big player in helping the City advance toward wind energy, will be the main player in getting the stock company up and running.  The stock company will serve as a mechanism to fund the installation of the transmission line and also to help city residents profit from the operation of the wind farm. The stock company will seek investment from financial institutions, the City of North Myrtle Beach, and North Myrtle Beach residents.  Once investment is secured, the transmission cable could be laid while the City undertakes its next storm water drainage project so that extra installation expenses are kept to a minimum.

Pre-planning the installation of this cable shows great forward thinking.  It will serve as a big incentive for a wind farm developer to locate the wind farm off the coast from North Myrtle Beach and create local jobs.  Having all the pieces in place for the cable installation will eliminate one more complication for wind farm developers so that they can bring the farm online and start generating wind energy and revenue faster.  Also, since the transmission line will be community-owned, the citizens of North Myrtle Beach will have a vested interest in seeing the wind farm brought online.  In this way, the community has buy-in for a future wind farm through the jobs created as well as compensation for the wind farm’s operation.  When you add in the fact that North and South Carolina have some of the best offshore wind resources in the country, its a no-brainer that this area will become very attractive for future offshore wind development.

We applaud the City of North Myrtle Beach and look forward to what will come next for the community.

The North Strand Coastal Wind Team should also be recognized for the great amount of work they have put into advancing the opportunity of wind energy in North Myrtle Beach.  The passage of this resolution was an important step following four years of work from the Wind Team.  The Wind Team is a grassroots coalition of organizations, businesses, and individuals in and around North Myrtle Beach implementing education and advocacy efforts to promote wind energy development.  The team has representation from Clemson University, Coastal Carolina University, Grand Strand SCORE, Jim Caudle Reef Foundation, Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation, North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College. Santee Cooper, Savannah River National Laboratory, South Carolina Energy Office, South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, and the City of North Myrtle Beach.

Over the past four years, the Wind Team has taken great strides in getting the North Strand area ready for wind energy, which is poised as one of the biggest and best business opportunities available for the coastal Southeast.  The Wind Team has worked hand-in-hand with researchers, local governments, and community members to ensure that wind energy development is done responsibly and economically.  Among their accomplishments over the past four years, the Wind Team has done a fantastic job of coalition building and encouraging community support of offshore wind, assisted with and hosted meteorological studies to determine local wind resources, passed a municipal ordinance allowing for small wind turbine installations, supported and overseen the installation of three city-owned wind turbines, which serve as a demonstration and education opportunity for residents to grow accustomed to the turbines and grow to love them before bigger ones go out to sea, and just last week helped pass the municipal resolution declaring the City of North Myrtle Beach to be a “Wind Powered Economic Zone.”

It is with pride that we announce that Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is joining the North Strand Coastal Wind Team and look forward to helping advance this great effort to harness some of the greatest, clean energy resources in the country.

Here is a diagram from the North Strand Coastal Wind Team showing how various businesses in the North Myrtle Beach area would flow together to install and maintain a wind farm of approximately 334 megawatts.

Here is a diagram from the North Strand Coastal Wind Team showing how various businesses in the North Myrtle Beach area would flow together to install and maintain a wind farm of approximately 334 megawatts.

 

Reposted from www.cleanenergy.org

Going green – solar farms, crops – at Robeson Community College

Posted on: November 26th, 2012 by shannon No Comments


LUMBERTON, N.C. — Farming has changed considerably over the last several decades. More and more, farmers are looking to non-traditional crops to increase profit margins.

In Robeson County, many farmers are transitioning from traditional crops to solar farms.

Thanks to the local community college, the county’s reputation for agriculture and renewable energy just got a boost.

On November 9, Lumberton’s Robeson Community College launched the “GreenZone,” a hands-on learning lab where students will learn the importance of sustainability in agriculture and energy.

The GreenZone is an initiative of the BioNetwork, an education and workforce development program launched by the North Carolina Community Colleges system. Robeson Community College was selected as the leading institution for the program’s agricultural biotechnology component, the BioAg Center.

The GreenZone will be a “showcase of sustainability,” said Ed Hunt, coordinator of the BioNetwork BioAg Center. The project will give students and farmers “opportunities to thrive” while preserving North Carolina’s rich agricultural heritage.

The GreenZone project includes a student-run greenhouse, raised planting beds and solar panels. The facility will allow students to learn about some technologies relevant to current and future industries, such as winemaking and sustainable energy.

“A lot of this operation is run by our students,” said Charles Chrestman, president of the Robeson Community College. Students have helped build the project and will play a major role in the crops grown on site.

The GreenZone represents an important project for the school, community and the state, said Senator Michael Walters. According to Walters, the project represents “how we’re moving forward” with green energy and sustainable crops.

“Robeson County is becoming known as the solar farm county in the state,” said Walters. Connecting the region’s strong tradition of agriculture with the technologies of the future will bring the project “full circle as we go forward,” he said.

Lack of education is holding back solar power and other renewable technologies, said Scott Cole, of Simmons Electronics, a partner in the project. The GreenZone will help clarify some of the misinformation that hinders these technologies, he said.

According to Cole, North Carolina has a head start in growing these industries. “One of the ways we’re able to do that is through initiatives brought by the legislature,” he said. The state offers a 35% renewable energy tax credit, one of the best rates in the country, said Cole.

Ryan Nance, coordinator with the Lumber River Workforce Development Board, explained that collaboration is a key component of workforce development. Nance said that political leaders, the community college and private businesses all had a hand in launching the GreenZone, what Nance called a “multi-faceted training center.”

According to Nance, expansion of the solar industry in Robeson County created more than 150 new jobs in the last two years. With the GreenZone, Robeson Community College now provides “customized training” for growing industries. The project will allow students at the school to “utilize these assets that a lot of community colleges don’t have,” said Nance.

The GreenZone will be used as a “demonstration system” to show how agriculture can benefit the state economically and environmentally. Future projects will include the installation of a geothermal system to heat the greenhouse and experimenting with wind energy systems.

 

By JEREMY SUMMERS, NCBiotech Writer

Semprius to power $2.3M Pentagon solar project

Posted on: November 20th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

 

DURHAM, N.C. — Solar technology startup Semprius will be putting photovoltaic modules produced at its new factory in Henderson as part of a Department of Defense contract.

Semprius said Monday that it will provide some 2,400 modules to produce solar power for Pratt & Whitnet Rocketdyne, which won a $2.3 million contract to demonstrate the potential of high concentration photovoltaic (HPCV) technology.

PWR will install a 200 kilowatt solar system at Edwards Air Force base in California using Semprius products.

The system is expected to produce enough power for some 40 homes.

Semprius’ proprietary technology has set records for conversion of solar energy into electricity and can deliver as much as 30 percent more power than other photovoltaic system, the company says.

“We are honored to be working with PWR to deliver our HCPV modules to the DoD,” said Joe Carr, CEO of Semprius. “We believe that our technology will play an increasingly important role in delivering cost-competitive, sustainable energy.”

Semprius, which is venture capital-backed, has been working with PWR since 2011 on a demonstration project at the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

“Having spent several years evaluating emerging PV technologies, we’ve selected Semprius because of the potential of their technology to drive down the cost of solar electricity significantly,” said Randy Parsley, Renewable Energy Program Manager at PWR, in a statement. “We look forward to executing this project with Semprius to help the DoD begin to achieve its energy independence and energy security goals.”

Semprius opened its production plant in Henderson on Sept. 26.

Semprius is based in Durham but chose Henderson for its first manufacturing facility. The company is eligible to receive some $8 million in state and local tax incentives.

Plans call for Semprius to hire some 250 workers over the next several years to man the Henderson facility.

Semprius has raised more than $40 million in venture capital from investors such as Intersouth Partners in Durham as well as In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA, plus Siemens Venture Capital.

In July, Semprius secured $8 million in credit.

Horizon Technology Finance Corporation and Silicon Valley Bank agreed to provide an $8 million venture loan “facility.”

Horizon will provide $5 million and Silicon Valley Bank the remaining $3 million.

 

By WRAL TechWire

Ask Away! N.C. Solar Center Launches Speakers Bureau

Posted on: November 20th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

The N.C. Solar Center is launching a Speakers Bureau to increase its capacity in answering requests to provide in-person information on renewable energy. Members of the Speakers Bureau were carefully chosen from among the 1,100 past participants of the Center’s Renewable Energy Technologies Diploma Series. These individuals have displayed a keen understanding of renewable energy technologies and markets, and are leaders in their communities.

The Speakers Bureau now allows the N.C. Solar Center to reach out to local communities to provide information on renewable energy technology, market trends and policies and programs in the state that help support this industry.

To learn more about the Speakers Bureau, contact Shannon Helm at shannon_helm@ncsu.edu or Lyra Rakusin at lyra_rakusin@ncsu.edu.

Duke Energy to test new uses for old EV batteries

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

 

Duke Energy, partnering with General Motors and power technology company ABB, will test whether used electric-vehicle batteries can find new purpose on the electric grid.

Lithium-ion batteries often have 70 percent or more of their useful life when they’re no longer usable in electric vehicles, GM says. GM and ABB began work two years ago on ways to reuse their energy storage.

A demonstration Wednesday in San Francisco gave a hint. Five used Chevrolet Volt battery packs were repackaged into a unit that could power three to five average homes for two hours.

Duke envisions battery systems smoothing out the sudden swings in output from solar photovoltaic systems, said senior project manager Dan Sowder, helping the grid work more efficiently.

Duke will install a five-battery system on its grid somewhere in its six-state territory, Sowder said, ideally at a business or home with a rooftop solar system. The location hasn’t been identified.

While prototypes have been tested, Sowder said, “the leap here is that we’re going out to the real live electrical grid.” Duke is also testing other energy-storage technologies across its territory.

The companies see other potential benefits from EV batteries.

As the San Francisco demonstration showed, batteries could supply emergency power during power outages. They could also be charged at night, when electric rates are lowest, and their energy released to the grid during peak demand times.

New uses would also give old batteries new value, reducing the effective cost of owning EVs. GM expects to have 500,000 vehicles with some form of electrification on the road by 2017, implying a healthy market for recyclable batteries.

ABB’s research center in Raleigh has conducted research and development while its Lake Mary, Fla., unit is doing further testing, market research and product development.

ABB’s North American headquarters is in Cary. The company employs more than 1,600 people in North Carolina, including 100 at a cable-making plant it opened this year in Huntersville.

 
By Bruce Henderson, Charlotte Observer

Solar Energy Providing Jobs in Eastern N.C.

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

BATH — Solar energy production has become a hot industry in Eastern North Carolina, pumping revenue and jobs into some of the poorest communities in the state.

The newest commercial-scale project in Beaufort County, scheduled to open by year’s end, is Duke Energy Renewables’ largest solar project so far. Built on 88 acres of farmland just outside Bath, the $40 million Washington White Post Solar Farm will have about 56,000 solar panels that can generate enough electricity to power about 2,000 homes.

The power will be purchased from Duke Renewables, a non-regulated commercial unit of Duke Energy, by the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency through a renewable 15-year agreement, said Duke spokeswoman Tammie McGee. The 12.5-megawatt project could potentially expand, she said, but it has not been decided to what extent.

With the nearby city of Washington — often called “Little Washington” —- suffering a poverty rate of 30 to 40 percent and unemployment hovering around 11 percent, the jobs and tax revenue created by the project are likely more welcome than the clean energy.

“Everyone is thankful we’re here,” said Kenny Habul, chief executive of SunEnergy1, the Mooresville-based contractor. “We’re very well supported. Most people should be fans of clean power — unless you’re a fan of coal.”

There has been no public outcry about the aesthetics of the blue-grey solar panels spread over acres of former farmland, said Catherine Glover, executive director of the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce.

“I have not heard objections from anyone,” she said. “If anything, it’s just providing the economic impact we need right now.”

Glover said that between construction jobs and increased business at area retailers, motels and eateries, the project will bring about $20.1 million into the local economy.

And when the Bath project is completed, SunEnergy1 is onboard to build a proposed 20-megawatt solar farm on public land near the local Washington airport, pending Federal Aviation Administration approval, said Shawn Lemond, CEO of Sustainable Energy Community Development Co. in Davidson and the facilitator of both projects.

After the second project, Lemond said, Washington will be at capacity for utility-scale solar power, based on the system demands. But he emphasized that the limitation has no effect on small-scale solar power used at homes and businesses.

North Carolina law requires municipal or co-op utility companies to provide 10 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2018; for investor-owned power companies like Duke the standard is 12.5 percent by 2021.

Lemond, who started his company in 2010, said the growing demand for solar power in Eastern North Carolina is a reflection of the state’s friendly policies and tax incentives for renewable energy businesses. Overall, jobs in renewable energy have expanded from about 4,000 statewide in 2007 to about 15,200 statewide in 2011, he said.

In addition to a 5-megawatt project in Murfreesboro completed in Dec. 2011, Duke Renewables has six 1-megawatt projects in the western part of the state.

But Lemond said he sees the most opportunity in the solar energy field in the eastern and northeastern parts of the state, where there is an abundance of rural flat land and sunshine and a profound need for jobs.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of solar projects being proposed in Eastern North Carolina, both in terms of the number of projects and an increase in the size,” said Julie Robinson, director of government affairs for the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association. “It’s definitely an area of high interest.”

Robinson said that jobs in the solar industry, many of which entail training and certification, can be compared to the construction industry in that skilled workers go from jobsite to jobsite. For that reason, the solar industry is starting to cluster projects, and manufacturers of solar parts are opening or relocating in North Carolina to meet the industry demand.

Robinson said that with its clean energy policies and job creation, North Carolina is a leader in the Southeast, especially in solar power, and is in the top 10 nationwide.

“I think the goal is to have a more diverse energy mix,” she said. “But renewable energy will never replace all traditional energy like nuclear and coal that our state has relied on for generations.”

For the Bath project, 150 workers have been hired, many of them unemployed construction workers from the local community, Lemond said. That translates to 294,000 wage hours. The project, he said, is also expected to bring an additional $600,000 of sales tax revenue and $209,000 in annual property tax revenue, equal to ½ cent of the county tax rate.

“It allows the very people who were hit the hardest out in Eastern North Carolina to benefit,” he said. “It’s a perfect fit.”

Typically, farmers can lease all or part of their land for about $300 to $400 per acre per year for 15 years, Lemond said.  If the fixed lease is renewed for another 15 years, the price goes up to $450 to $500 per acre per year. Leases adjusted annually usually start at about $125 per acre per year.

Lemond said that there are also benefits beyond direct pay: Line loss — electrical power lost in transmission — is reduced 7 percent. And the infusion of money in worker’s pockets trickles down into the community.

“This has really helped a lot in my county,” Gopher Vaughan, owner of Vaughan Septic & Well Service in Washington, said in a video about the project, “because every cent I make I spend in the county.”

Bosch Solar Energy, a German company providing most of the solar modules at the Bath project, recently opened a second U.S. location in Mooresville, outside of Charlotte, which has become a hub of energy innovators. The company also has an office in San Mateo, Calif.

“North Carolina has a fairly strong program to encourage the use and deployment of solar,” said Eric Daniels, Bosch regional president. “It’s a wonderful place to do business and it’s got the advantage of having a significant amount of sun.”

Daniels said that solar technology has become much more efficient and less expensive; four years ago solar cells cost twice what they cost now. And he said that there is a lot of work being done to continue improvements in the industry.

Solar systems are designed to withstand winds in excess of 125 mph, he said. Even the glass surrounding the silicon solar cells — there are 72 in each module — is made strong enough to take the direct force of a golf ball strike. The systems automatically cut off in hurricane, and all cabling is underground.

Daetwyler Clean Energy in Huntersville has been contracted to build the ground racks that support the 12- to 14-foot wide panels, which are placed in east–to-west lines. The south-facing panels, standing 12 feet off the ground, are noiseless and produce less glare than sun reflecting off water.

The project is expected to eventually produce 23 megawatts of power, Lemond said, based on its sunny southern location.

Lemond said that his company is looking at more projects at locations east of I-95 in North Carolina, including Edenton, Farmville and Elizabeth City, that will add a total of 400 megawatts of solar power to the region.

“It’s an impressive industry,” he said. “It is no longer a fad. It’s got real legs and the ability to really change the economics in Eastern North Carolina for the foreseeable future.”

 

By Catherine Kozak