Renewable Energy

Dave DeWitt

The dank, dark tunnel deep inside the Cowans Ford Dam—about 100 feet or so below the water line of Lake Norman north of Charlotte—is where I learn a little-known fact.

All dams leak.

Jeff Lineberger, Duke Energy’s director of Hydro Strategy and Licensing, and Mike Williams, the Cowans Ford facility director, smile and patiently explain to a novice the small waterfalls cascading down a staircase and into a trough alongside the tunnel.

solar
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

The 429-page state budget, released just before midnight Monday, contains plenty of provisions that will affect the future of the environment in North Carolina.

Jim Rogers is the former CEO, President and Chairman of Duke Energy and wants to bring electricity to the developing world.
Duke Energy

More than 1.2 billion people in the world live without electricity. Former Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers wants that figure to change. After a career at the helm of the largest electric power company in the United States, he is determined to bring power to developing countries.

A picture of solar panels
SayCheeeeeese / Wikipedia

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced $63 million in loans and grants for its Rural Energy for America Program.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says more than $48 million of that will go toward 14 solar and energy efficiency projects in North Carolina.

wind farm
Dave DeWitt

Locals around here call the flatlands west of Elizabeth City “The Desert.” What was once a swamp was drained by timber companies, and, finally, became farmland.  

And it’s almost always windy, as farmer Horace Pritchard explains.

“If you can see and hear the wind right now, that’s the way the wind blows here 90 percent of the time,” he says.

Solar Panels
Strata Solar

The North Carolina General Assembly is considering legislation to limit the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards. Proponents say tax incentives and government mandates for renewable energy are crucial to continued growth in revenue and jobs. 

  Several large companies like Google and Facebook have urged the legislature not to roll back the measures. Opponents say solar businesses costs the state more than they generates and taxpayers end up footing the bill. 

A view of Duke Energy's Marshall Steam Station from the public entrance off N.C. Highway 150.
Cdtew / Wikimedia Commons

State lawmakers recently negotiated a deal that originally would have weakened North Carolina's requirements for renewables as one source of the state's energy portfolio.

Instead, the House agreed to study the matter further. 

The deal is just one example of how policymakers are considering significant changes to North Carolina's energy policies, from coal ash regulations to environmental rules on new developments.

One of Progress Energy's solar energy farms.
Duke Energy/Progress Energy

Duke Energy has announced yet another solar farm to be built in North Carolina. But this one is unique: it’s the first solar farm the utility company has ever built on a military base.

The Camp Lejeune solar farm will be a 13-megawatt facility that could power as many as 3,000 homes. That is relatively small, when compared to the 65-megawatt Duke Energy facility under construction in Duplin County.

A Duke Energy power plant and coal ash ponds outside Asheville.
Zen Sutherland

Coal ash and fracking will dominate the environmental headlines this year. But the story will be different in the Legislature, where as much news will be made by what’s not discussed as by what is.

Some observers believe that the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard that has been such a contentious issue in years past may not come up at all this session. It requires utility companies to generate 12.5 percent of its electricity using renewables by 2021.

The REP Standard first passed in 2007 and sustained a Republican challenge in 2013.

Apple solar
Apple

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.”

solar panels
Strata Solar

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.

A picture of a man charging an electric car.
David Dodge / Green Energy Futures via Creative Commons

Eight different auto manufacturers and 15 different utility companies are teaming up with the Electric Power Research Institute to test technology that will allow them to determine when electric cars can recharge.

Trees in Chapel Hill,
Laura Candler

The EPA proposed sweeping changes to the country's carbon emission regulations. The coal is to cut carbon pollution by 30% by 2030 - relying more heavily on renewable energy sources to generate electricity.

Jonas Monast is the Director of the Climate and Energy Program at Duke University's Nicholas Institute. He says that North Carolina is well positioned for the changes that will be required.

A solar panel, renewable energy
NCSU/CSE

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.

NC Solar 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. 

NCSU students study an array of solar panels on top of the NSF FREEDM Systems Center.
Marc Hall / North Carolina State University

Raleigh might soon have a group-purchasing program that would make it cheaper for residents to install solar panels on their homes. North Carolina Solar Center Director Steve Kalland  says solar power is popular among state utilities. They save money buying the costly technology in bulk. Kalland says homeowners are also interested in using cheaper, greener energy.

"The opportunity to do this has been somewhat constrained in North Carolina because the cost of these smaller-scale projects is somewhat higher than the large-scale projects," Kalland says.

Duke Energy provides electricity for most of North Carolina since the 2012 merger.
Duke Energy

Duke Energy is introducing a program to provide its largest customers with renewable power.   The utility's 'Green Source Rider' initiative would give companies that use large amounts of power an option to use renewable energy in their new or expanded facilities.

Duke Energy will ask participating customers what their new power preference is: wind, solar or some other source.  Spokesman Jeff Brooks says it's then up to the utility to find them ample amounts..

The Seal of the State of North Carolina
North Carolina Government / North Carolina

A variety of measures aimed at weakening environmental protections are making their way through the General Assembly. One would limit environmental regulations while another would repeal a six-year-old renewable energy policy. Meanwhile, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is changing its mission statement to reflect an emphasis on customer service, a move some call anti-science.

  The North Carolina Renewables Program, instated in 2007, requires utility companies to produce a percentage of sales from efficiency efforts or renewable sources. The program has since pushed North Carolina up in solar farm research and also created jobs during a recession. Efforts to repeal the program have recently been introduced to the House and Senate, claiming that the programs will have a negative impact on the economy.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' pier near Duck, NC.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / www.frf.usace.army.mil

A renewable energy company says it's testing a prototype that could produce energy from ocean waves near the Outer Banks. 

Boston-based Resolute Marine Energy says it tested the equipment for two months off the coast of Duck this winter.  Engineer Cliff Goudey says the device has a large piece of fiberglass that waves back and forth like a barn door.

"It sits out on the bottom offshore just outside the breaking wave zone," Goudey says.

Mayberry Solar Farm in Mt. Airy
o2energies.com

Mt. Airy is now the site of a 1.2 megawatt solar farm capable of producing power to the equivalent of about 150 homes per year. John Morrison is Chief Operating Oficer for Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar.

Experts on solar energy are converging in Raleigh today for a conference designed to help expand the development of new technology. Siemens Industry is partnering with the North Carolina Solar Center for "Solar Exchange East" at North Carolina State University. Stephen Kalland is Executive Director for the North Carolina Solar Center. He says the conference will cover a number of issues.

A utility based in Chicago is proposing an 80-megawatt wind farm in eastern North Carolina. The company Invenergy sent an application to state officials last week for a facility with 49 turbines at a site in Beaufort County. Jay Lucas is an engineer with the state Utilities Commission. He says an 80-megawatt farm could power 20,000 homes, depending on wind capacity.

NC Clean Energy Data Book
energync.org

People interested in North Carolina's clean energy economy will now find much of what they're looking for in one source. The non-profit North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association has released a book that compiles various data, maps, and charts on North Carolina's green infrastructure.
Spokeswoman Julie Robinson says there isn't just one dominant source of clean energy.