Renewable Energy Potential High in Rural Communities

 

USDA-funded renewable energy assessments for NC, SC & VA provide assistance

 

RALEIGH, N.C. – As renewable energy becomes increasingly common throughout the state of North Carolina, opportunities for rural communities to take advantage of renewable energy are growing rapidly.  Solar electric, also known as photovoltaic or PV, solar thermal, and bio-energy can bring revenue and savings to rural and agricultural enterprises while providing the environmental benefits that accompanies renewable energy. Several factors are joining forces to drive this recent explosion of solar and bio-energy development. In the PV industry, recent strong growth in worldwide demand for PV has driven down system prices through radical drops in panel prices due to manufacturing cost reductions, economies of scale and increased competition.  Additionally, large-scale investors are becoming more comfortable with solar PV and solar thermal as investments, which is increasing the size of systems and allowing new financing options.

Large Solar PV installations, some 100 acres or more, are now often being sited in rural areas, where flat land near transmission or distribution power lines is common and minimizes the cost the solar farm. Land owners can benefit by leasing land for 15 or more years to the project developers that are building these solar farms throughout the state.  Lease rates are often higher than other uses for the land, making this an attractive option for many landowners. Large solar thermal installations can be installed at any type of facility where a large amount of hot water is used. These systems can dramatically reduce the use of heating fuels, reducing the facilities’ operating costs.  A seven-acre solar thermal farm at Prestage Foods in St. Pauls, N.C. was installed at no cost to Prestage Foods, and will cut their utility cost for heating hot water by more than 35 percent.

North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standards (REPS) provide an ongoing opportunity for North Carolina agriculture to produce renewable energy by providing specific incentives for renewable energy produced from swine and poultry waste. Power produced from swine waste and poultry litter can claim renewable energy credits, which have a market value and can be sold to provide additional revenue to these projects.  Only a few installations have taken advantage of the swine and poultry allocations of the renewable portfolio standards, leaving a large opportunity for swine and poultry waste-to-energy projects in North Carolina.

 

Assessment Contact: Tommy Cleveland, NC Solar Center, 919-515-9432, tommy_cleveland@ncsu.edu

Media Contact: Shannon Helm, N.C. Solar Center, 919-423-8340, shannon_helm@ncsu.edu