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Haywood County is making a few hundred dollars a month converting methane gas emanating from the old county landfill on Francis Farm into electricity, and reselling it over the power grid.

“It has been a long process, but we are out there putting power back on the grid,” said David Francis, the Haywood County tax administrator and solid waste committee member, at a meeting of the county Board of Commissioners this week.

By Peggy Manning • Correspondent

North Carolina is in the process of “paving” the electric vehicle highway and Western North Carolina is well on its way to being an important spoke in that wheel.

Haywood Community College has the only electric vehicle charging station west of Asheville, but several are popping up in Asheville and around the region.

A blower upgrade to the landfill gas system that helps power Jackson County’s Green Energy Park has been completed.

The upgrade, which included a moister separator, should help the system be more efficient, according to Director Timm Muth, director of Jackson County’s Green Energy Park, located at the old county landfill in Dillsboro.

The new blower has nine stages of operation that should better regulate the gas output pressure while facilitating a steadier and possibly higher level of gas flow to the forges and kilns.

The Jackson County Green Energy Park uses landfill gas and other renewable energy resources to provide fuel for blacksmith forges and the foundry, glassblowing studios and greenhouses. www.jcgep.org.

What do Harrill Residence Hall at Western Carolina University, the Cherokee Central School System, the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center in the Smokies and the firehouse in Sylva have in common?

Each of these projects help make a whole: they are part of a burgeoning green-building trend in Western North Carolina that, in recent years, has seen sustainable commercial construction become less of a niche and more of the norm.

“It is definitely becoming mainstream,” said Lauren Bishop, campus energy manager for WCU, where a green retrofitting of Harrill dorm is under way and the earth friendly Health and Human Sciences Building was recently completed.

These green buildings use less power and water, are often built in a pre-existing footprint, produce less waste and use recycled materials. Most incorporate more natural light and fresh air than standard commercial buildings.

Some are certified sustainable, others are not: LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification is the recognized standard (see sidebar on LEED certification). But that stamp of approval comes at a recurring annual cost and a whole lot of paperwork.

SEE ALSO: The price of being certifiably ‘green’

As George Stanley, projects manager for Southwestern Community College, put it when describing the non-certified but sustainable Conrad G. Burrell administration/bookstore building under way there, one can have a perfectly fantastic pedigree dog without having in hand the actual pedigree papers.

With or without the certification, WNC architects and local governments are paying increasing attention to sustainable building practices.

 

Not just green: healthy

Scott Donald is a principal architect with Padgett and Freeman Architects. The Asheville company drafted the plans for the massive new campus that’s home to Cherokee Central Schools, as well as the tribal emergency operations center. Both are LEED certified, but Donald said that he would try to bring environmental sustainability to the projects even without the certification, just because it’s his professional habit.

“This office has been doing that since the early 70s,” Donald said. “It’s really just environmentally conscious architecture.”

The schools in particular are chockablock with sustainable measures. It’s a sprawling, 473,000-square-foot campus that houses kindergarten through high school and incorporates green technology at every turn. There are waterless urinals, daylight sensors in every room to maximize natural light and minimize the artificial light used, underground cisterns stowed beneath the schools’ courtyards that can hold 60,000 gallons of rainwater for irrigation and toilet flushing. And, the school is heated by 450-foot geothermal wells that were drilled beneath the school to make use of the earth’s warmth.

The project cost $140 million, but Yona Wade, director of the school’s cultural arts center, said the benefits are worth the extra money spent to LEED certify the buildings. The measures will save the school system money in the long term  — $10 million over 40 years, according to Donald.

In Cherokee, the impetus for green building is largely rooted in a 2009 environmental proclamation made by Principal Chief Michell Hicks. He directed the tribe toward greater care for the environment in its policies.

“It comes from wanting to be good stewards of what we have,” Wade said. “This has got to be the building that will last us. We’ll probably never do this again.”

 

The sun and the wind are free

O’Dell Thompson, a Sylva architect, has chosen not to take the classes and pay the fees necessary to get LEED certified. But he designs in an environmentally friendly manner “because that’s the right thing to do.”

“I do a lot of houses, churches and stuff,” Thompson said. “With all of my clients, I encourage them to take advantage of the things that are free — the sun and the wind.”

Thompson was the architect on Sylva’s new firehouse.

He remembers that when Sylva leaders were developing the concept for the new firehouse, then Mayor Brenda Oliver emphasized, “no matter what, it should be as environmentally sensitive as possible,” Thompson said. “So that was one of our goals from the outset.”

Last fall, the firehouse was completed. Not too many years ago the obviously sustainable building might have seemed incongruous in this mountain town of just 2,500, with its large solar panels displayed prominently on the roof. But these days? It really hasn’t occasioned much comment.

There is a solar pre-heating hot water system that heats water to circulate under the slabs where the fire trucks rest when not in use. This saves propane costs — you can’t let a fire truck, full of potentially lifesaving water, freeze during the winter. The slab retains heat because it has thermal mass, which helps keep temperatures warmer.

Up to eight solar tubes help with lighting the firehouse. So much so, Thompson said a butterfly baffle had to be installed near the television so that the firemen could see the screen. The building is south facing, and there’s an overhang to prevent heat buildup in summer and accept heat during the winter.

There are photovoltaics, which is a method of generating power by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity. There are no batteries being charged, the electricity generated simply offsets any electric costs.

The firehouse is metal, meaning parts of it were probably recycled; the men’s room has a waterless urinal to save on water use.

The building avoids the use of volatile organic compounds in the paints or carpet.

“It’s not just green,” Thompson said. “It’s an environmentally healthy structure.”

 

Green building helps bottom line

Tim Chapman is the associate director for facilities in the office of residential living at WCU. He’s a practical kind of fellow, one who clearly understands and appreciates the virtue and necessity of the bottom line.

“We’re a business,” Chapman said. “Everything we do must be done in sound business terms.”

Each of the 13 buildings he helps oversee is an individual “cost center,” meaning they have to cost out each year, bringing in enough money to offset expenses. But these days, that doesn’t exclude incorporating green practices — in fact, sustainable building techniques can save you money, Chapman said.

“The desire has been there for years, but the manufacturing process and science (of green building) is catching up,” he said.

WCU has reused sites instead of eating up more green space as it has entered a new building phase in recent years. More green space, in fact, has been added on campus.

There also have been such innovations as a central chilling plant to cool the buildings on the campus quad instead of separate units, and on-demand hot water heaters.

And Harrill dorm, a 38-year-old residence hall being upgraded and improved, will be the ultimate sustainable “showpiece” on campus, Chapman said.

Work has started on the 400-bed dorm, which should be completed by next summer. The $15 million project will include extensive upgrades to outdated heating, ventilation, air conditioning, electrical and plumbing systems.

Plans call for the installation of a rooftop rainwater collection system to provide water for flushing toilets, solar panels to supplement water heating and geothermal wells for heating and cooling.

WCU Architect Galen May said the new dorm will also allow students to be highly energy conscious. An energy monitor will be added to each pair of floors that will allow students to monitor their energy consumption.

A dashboard will be in the lobby so that all residents can view energy consumption throughout the entire dorm.

“It’s our responsibility to set a good example, and to teach our students about this aspect,” Bishop, the campus energy manager, said.

May said Harrill would serve as a learning tool for students. And, perhaps, it will serve as one for the region, too.

By Quintin Ellison and Colby Dunn

 

 

LEED ‘green’ buildings in WNC

• Cherokee Emergency Operations Center, Cherokee

• Ravensford School Project, Cherokee Central Schools

• Registered (in process of LEED certification)

• One single-family home in Bryson City

• Oconaluftee Visitor’s Center – Cherokee

• Haywood Community College, Creative Arts Building – Clyde

• Two single family homes in Franklin

• Unitarian Universalist Fellowship – Franklin

• Best Buy – Waynesville

• One single-family home – Sylva

• Cherokee Operations Center – Whittier

• Harrill Hall renovations – WCU

• WCU Health and Gerontological Building – Cullowhee

Source: U.S. Green Building Council

By DeeAnna Haney • SMN Intern

Perched atop a Canton nursing home roof, gleaming in the sun is the newest addition to the building, bringing it to the forefront of the green initiative in North Carolina.

Silver Bluff Village held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week to celebrate the installation of a new solar energy system. It is the first nursing facility in the state to harness the sun for the building’s hot water needs.

Provided by SolTherm, a clean energy services firm based in Asheville, the 32 4-by-10 foot panels will provide up to 50 percent of the facility’s hot water consumption including bathing, cooking and other dietary requirements.

When SolTherm first approached Silver Bluff owners Bob and Lisa Leatherwood about how a solar energy project could benefit the 195-bed nursing home, the couple had already committed to reducing energy usage by replacing their plumbing fixtures, all light bulbs and upgrading their wastewater treatment facility.

The idea of using alternative water heating sources had crossed their minds during this building transformation two years ago, but they were sure the project would be far too expensive.

But SolTherm’s research results on the building quickly changed the couple’s minds. The company found that a solar hot water energy system would reduce the nursing home’s energy costs by 10 percent immediately, saving them an estimated $315,000 over 20 years if they participated in the NoCapEx program. (This number is assuming propane prices continue to increase at six percent each year).

Bob Leatherwood said he first thought it was too good to be true. With NoCapEx, the company promised to front the solar panel equipment and installation with no upfront cost to Silver Bluff. In return, the Leatherwoods were asked to sign a 20-year contract and pay a monthly fee.

After SolTherm’s proposal, Lisa Leatherwood said the decision to install was a “no-brainer.” “All we had to do was provide the building,” she said.

The Heliodyne solar panels capture the sun’s thermal energy by heated fluids in the solar collectors and then send it to heat exchangers. The solar heated water is then stored in a 2,000-gallon tank and can be used throughout the day.

According to SolTherm’s Web site, SolTherm.com, traditional hot water heaters waste as much as 35 percent fossil fuels. The solar panels work to reduce the use of a hot water heater thus saving money and environmental impact.

“This is something we would encourage anybody to look at and we’re very excited and glad to be an example in the community,” Bob Leatherwood said at the ceremony.

Lisa Leatherwood said she is pleased with the results of the solar panels already. The online monitoring system inside the building that tracks the system’s progress reads the facility has saved 225 trees, 221 gallons of gas and 6,746 vehicle miles to date.

“We’re proud to reduce our carbon footprint, create jobs and of course save money,” she said.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources released a study this week showing strong growth in recycling jobs in the state despite the effects of the recent recession.  

The research, conducted by DENR’s Division of Environmental Assistance and Outreach, is the latest in a string of studies demonstrating the ongoing contribution of recycling to the state’s economic growth. Results published in 1994, 2000, 2004, 2008 and now in 2010 have each documented increases in recycling employment in North Carolina over time.

The study’s major findings include:

There are currently almost 15,200 private sector recycling-related jobs in North Carolina.

Private sector recycling jobs have increased 4.8 percent since 2008.

The total annual payroll for North Carolina recycling businesses is $395 million.

Forty-eight percent of recycling businesses surveyed anticipate creating more jobs during the next two years.

Twenty-five percent of businesses surveyed report manufacturing a product using recycled materials.

Recycling businesses target a wide variety of recyclables for collection, processing or use in manufacturing. No single recycling commodity dominates the market.

“We are pleased to see that recycling remains a dynamic source of green jobs in North Carolina,” said DENR Secretary Dee Freeman. “The study shows that recycling not only helps us reduce our dependence on landfills, save energy and prevent pollution, but that it also boosts the economy at a critical time.”

“North Carolinians have a real opportunity to contribute to our economic recovery by recycling at home, at work and on-the-go,” said Scott Mouw, director of the state’s recycling programs.  “By diverting recyclable materials out of the waste stream and back into the stream of commerce, we can grow the more than 900 recycling businesses across the state who are making key investments in the collection, processing and end-use of those commodities.”

North Carolina-based recycling businesses listed in the state’s online Recycling Markets Directory received an invitation to participate in the 2010 Recycling Business employment study update. Additional recycling employment data from the N.C. Employment Security Commission and Harris Infosource was included in the study for recycling-related businesses not listed in the Recycling Markets Directory.  

A copy of the study can be found online at www.p2pays.org/ref/53/52107.pdf

How fickle fortune can be, Timm Muth, the director of the oft-touted Green Energy Park, found upon tendering a simple request this week to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.

Muth’s desire to advertise an open staff position gave way instead to a drilling down into the project’s overall worth — or, rather, its continued cost. The park, envisioned at the outset some five years ago as economically self-sustaining, has to date not been.

But it will be, Muth said. Just wait until the original vision is completed: the addition of a new pottery studio and studio spaces. Then, Muth said, the rent received from artists and craftspeople will prove the tipping point.

“I don’t see how you can make that statement,” newly elected Republican Commissioner and local businessman Doug Cody flatly responded after eliciting from Muth that there’s an absence of hard numbers to back that claim. Prove it, Cody told him. Perform a cost analysis, top to bottom.

The Green Energy Park opened late in 2006 to overwhelming public acclaim. This was a time, not so long ago, when Democrats ruled Jackson County and North Carolina.

The park was deemed a “technological first,” an environmental wonder, “the first place anywhere” to take landfill gas and use it to make biodiesel fuel, as Muth said then. By his side were officials eager to share in the glory of such a thing. Those officials included Larry Shirley, then the director of the North Carolina State Energy Office, who proclaimed: “This is an example of what will take place across the nation and the world.”

Maybe not. These days, the wind is blowing right, not left. And the Green Energy Park might not survive conservative commissioners’ efforts to back election promises they made to scrutinize the county for fiscal waste and potential savings.

The Green Energy Park was built next to a closed county landfill outside Dillsboro. The $1.2 million project was a means of recovering methane — a byproduct of the landfill’s decomposing trash — to heat greenhouses and help fuel a blacksmith forge. A crafts village (hence the pottery studio Muth mentioned) was part of the plan.

Last summer, the Green Energy Park served as a backdrop for a visit by Gov. Beverly Perdue and the Appalachian Regional Commission. The officials came for a tour, along the way dubbing the project a symbol of the new green economy.

Less than three months later, Republicans grabbed control of the state’s General Assembly and of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. In addition to Cody, Republican Charles Elders was elected, as was Chairman Jack Debnam, who ran as an Independent but relied on the GOP’s local political structure and advertising dollars to help secure victory.

Debnam started Muth’s difficulties in front of the board, reeling off a series of questions in Socratic fashion about the project’s cost to taxpayers: some grant money that had been built into the Green Energy Project’s budget hasn’t come through; the irony that thousands of dollars are required from the county to support the park’s utility bill; about rent and such not offsetting other costs.

Muth, who surely had some sense of what was coming because there were references to a prior tour of the facility by the board’s new members, seemed unprepared to answer such pointed questions.

About that pottery studio, Cody said: “All that sounds good on paper, but it costs money.” Cody made additional requests for hard numbers. And he asked the director, “What’s the end game on this thing?”

Democrat Commissioner Joe Cowan joined in with questions. He told Muth the board hadn’t had been given adequate time to review the information that was provided. More time also was needed, Cowan said, to review the director’s request that he be allowed to advertise for a new employee to replace Assistant Director Carrie Blaskowski.

Muth left to Cody’s words, “I’d just like to reiterate that I’d like to see a cost analysis done on the whole thing.”

A $300,000 federal grant awarded to three community colleges will help ready a Western North Carolina workforce for the rapidly growing green technology field.

Some 400 students are expected to enroll in programs supported by the Appalachian Regional Commission grant at Haywood, Southwestern and Tri-County community colleges.

Since 1998, clean energy jobs in North Carolina have grown by over 15 percent, while jobs in other fields have increased by only 6 percent. Officials say focusing on green job training is already a must in preparing students headed into the working world.

“It is incredibly important for the future of our state and country,” said Janet Burnette, interim president at Southwestern Community College.

Donna Tipton-Rogers, Tri-County college’s president, said this particular field was especially relevant with Murphy located close to major auto manufacturers in the South.

“It fits in great,” said Tipton-Rogers.

At a press conference held at Western Carolina University last week, the $300,000 check was officially presented to the Southwestern Planning & Economic Development Commission, which will work with the community colleges to develop the training program.

Rose Johnson, president of HCC, said the ARC money would be put to work as soon as the next semester begins. In all, $794,000 will be invested in the green training initiative, with local sources making up the difference.

The Appalachian Regional Commission works to promote economic development in 13 Appalachian states.

With a persistently high unemployment rate in the area, ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl pointed out the important role of higher education in bringing prosperity here.

“In an economic recession, one point that always comes out is the level of education has a direct impact on the level of income,” said Gohl. “It’s essential for a competitive workforce to be well-trained and well-educated.”

U.S. Congressman Heath Shuler emphasized the importance of not only creating green technology, but also creating the workforce necessary to implement it locally.

“We develop it, we produce it, we sell it — all in America,” said Shuler.

Governor Bev Perdue added that the grant would help bring Western North Carolina jobseekers up to speed.

“The world has morphed,” said Perdue. “We have a really deep and abiding commitment to going green.”

Green funding for colleges

The $300,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant will help three community colleges expand training in green jobs. Here are some ideas on how they plan to use it:

• Haywood Community College plans to use its share of the grant to fund equipment and instruction for low impact development, green building technology and weatherization.

• Southwestern Community College will focus on low impact development, alternative fuels, weatherization and sustainable energy.

• Tri-County Community College will invest its grant on teaching students to work on hybrid and electric vehicles.

What if the driveway to the county’s administration building were lined with blueberries?

It was January, and Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin and Heather Stevens were on a walk, dreaming about how green Jackson County could be. They had read an article on a little town in West Yorkshire, England, called Todmorden, which transformed the way it produces food in two years.

“I read the article, and I just thought, ‘Wow,’” Stevens said. “This would be great. We could do this here.”

Cabanis-Brewin and Stevens, long-time organic gardeners from opposite ends of the county, didn’t want the idea to die. Last week, Cabanis-Brewin asked the Jackson County Board of Commissioners to consider taking on the challenge of making the county the greenest in North Carolina. She’ll go back next month with a more formal proposal to be considered on the board’s agenda.

“We would need to formally declare that Sylva and Jackson County have a strategy for economic development and environmental preservation that involves trying to be the greenest county in the state,” Cabanis-Brewin said.

So far, their greenward movement has been based on food. Todmorden revitalized its food economy through a grow-your-own initiative that used publicly owned space for raising vegetables. Today the town’s three schools serve only locally grown vegetables and locally raised meats during meals, and its restaurants draw tourists from all over Great Britain.

Cabanis-Brewin said the Todmorden example — coupled with the knowledge that a Manna Foodbank report showed that more than 100,000 people in Western North Carolina seek emergency food assistance each year — made growing food the perfect place to start.

“You could focus on transportation or energy, but you have to start somewhere,” said Cabanis-Brewin. “And because it’s easy and because it’s spring, we wanted to start with food.”

Stevens called seed companies that have nonprofit initiatives and managed to get her hands on more than 500 seed packets from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and the Seed Savers Exchange. She is working with community partners to find people who are willing to plant the seeds in unexpected places. So far both the Sylva and Dillsboro community gardens have stepped up to the plate.

St. John’s Episcopal Church and the First United Methodist Church in Sylva have taken seeds to plant. Soul Infusion Café, Spring Street Café, and Café Guadalupe have also agreed to plant seeds and look for ways to use more locally grown food wherever possible.

Stevens argues that rainbow chard, purple basil, sunflowers, and scarlet runner beans can be as beautiful as any flowerbeds while still producing food for the table. Cabanis-Brewin told the Jackson County Board of Commissioners that their Buncombe County counterparts authorized a study that showed growing and eating local would bring $452 million into the local economy in Western North Carolina.

Meanwhile, Gov. Perdue recently named the Sustainable Local Food Advisory Council to study how to increase the amount of local and sustainable foods served to public school students.

“It’s a smart thing for business and it’s a smart thing for the environment. The two things don’t have to be in contention,” Cabanis-Brewin said.

Besides, she argued, with Sylva’s historic watershed in trust, the county’s thriving community gardens, and a board of commissioners who were the first to pass building regulations focused on land preservation, Jackson County already has a head start on becoming the greenest in the state.

“We can preserve the time-honored mountain tradition of self-sufficiency, and give our county a bright economic and environmental future at the same time,” Cabanis-Brewin said.

County Commissioner William Shelton, a local farmer who has focused on land preservation issues, said he liked the idea, but he wanted to learn more about the specifics.

“We should never close our minds to these types of ideas, and if there are models out there, then let’s look at them,” Shelton said.

Shelton fears that while the dream of producing food in public places is attractive, the work ethic it would require may be more than people can handle.

“We would have to figure out a way to adapt it to what’s here and what’s practical. It’s the type of idea the whole community would have to be behind,” Shelton said.

Progress Energy customers can now claim a fraction of their power comes from the sun.

A new solar farm is on line in Canton sporting 2,340 solar panels on four acres — generating enough electricity to power 51 homes. A new state law that mandates utilities get 12.5 percent of their power from renewable sources by the year 2021 was the catalyst for the solar farm.

“A project like this really starts with good policy,” said Michael Shore, president of FLS Energy, which installed the solar field.

To help meet the renewable mandate, Progress Energy pledged to buy solar power from FLS at a set rate for the next 20 years.

While the solar field cost FLS $5 million up front to build, a sure-fire revenue stream in the form of a 20-year contract with Progress essentially guarantees a pay off down the line. Nonetheless, financing wasn’t easy, especially during an “economic calamity,” Shore said.

“Banks don’t have experience financing solar farms,” Shore said. “Even though we know we have a secure revenue stream backed up by Progress — what could be more secure? — we still had to get banks comfortable with it.”

Now that the ground has been plowed, Shore hopes subsequent projects will be easier. After 10 years, the debt will be paid off, and solar becomes quite profitable, Shore said.

“The lynchpin is you have to have somebody willing to buy the electricity,” Shore said.

And without the state legislation that forced utilities to invest in renewable energy, it is unclear whether a buyer would step up to the plate.

Sen. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville, said this was exactly what lawmakers had in mind when passing the renewable energy legislation three years ago.

“We wouldn’t have this project if we didn’t have those kinds of incentives. We wouldn’t be creating these jobs and moving toward an authentic alternative energy portfolio,” Queen said.

Progress now has 11 megawatts of solar power feeding its grid from solar farms across the state.

“This is a significant step in our balanced approach to bring clean, reliable and affordable power to the people across North Carolina,” said John Smith, Progress Energy’s vice president for the western region.

While this solar farm is only half a megawatt, add that to another half a dozen that have come on line in the past year, and it starts to add up, Shore said.

“This is just the beginning. When we stared this project two years ago, there were no solar farms in North Carolina. There were no solar farms in the Southeast,” Shore said.

 

The business of solar

Solar technology has long been considered cost prohibitive. But in the industry, it is finally reaching a critical mass.

As demand for solar grows, the technology gets better and cheaper. The cost of solar panels has come down 50 percent in three years. It’s similar to any electronics, from iPods to flat screen televisions, which come down in price the longer they are on the market, said Queen.

But in the meantime, the state has offered substantial tax incentives to spur solar development.

Apparently it worked, because soon those tax incentives won’t be needed anymore, according to Matt Card, director of business development for Suniva, which manufactures solar panels in Atlanta.

The cost of solar panels will continue to come down, while the cost of electricity continues to rise. Eventually, the industry will reach “grid parity.”

“At that point, it becomes just as cheap to build this as another power plant,” said Card.

As solar grows, so do associated jobs. FLS went from three to 50 employees in five years. The installation of the solar field in Canton provided full-time work for 15 of its staff for half a year.

The maker of the solar panels, an American company based in Atlanta, likewise is on the move. Suniva has gone from two to 150 employees in under three years. It plans to add another 75 manufacturing jobs this year to meet the skyrocketing demand for solar panels, Card said.

“There is a very tangible connection to job creation,” Card said.

It’s an industry where Haywood County is eager to make a name for itself.

“Hopefully it will be the beginning of other renewable energy projects in the future for our county,” said Mark Clasby, Haywood County economic development director.

In response to the solar farm, Haywood County passed an incentive package that gives alternative energy companies up to an 80 percent reduction in property taxes for investments made here.

Maintaining solar fields requires very little maintenance and no fuel costs like other power plants do. The panels just sit there soaking up the sun. They don’t even have to be cleaned, with that job left to the rain.

It’s unknown just how long they could last. They come with a warranty for 25 years, but could last twice as long.

Solar panels do wear out over time, degrading at about a quarter of a percent a year in their output. At the end of 25 years, they could be generating only 80 percent of what they were their first year, Shore said.

A ribbon cutting for the solar field was held this week. U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville, commended Progress Energy for getting on board the renewable energy train and the state of North Carolina for its progressive energy policy.

“North Carolina has really taken the first steps in that and is much further along than most states are,” Shuler said.

Shuler said he hoped WNC could become a “national hub for green energy.”

Shore was an environmental lobbyist in Raleigh for years before becoming an entrepreneur and starting his own solar company. For him, seeing the solar field up and running was emotionally moving.

“For years there was always the promise of renewable energy, but there was something standing in the way of making it happen,” Shore said. [Now,] “it’s powering real houses, and there’s a real business case behind it.”

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