HEMC flips the switch on new solar array

Haywood Electric Membership Corporation installed its first-ever solar array to power its own headquarters’ operations, and its likely not the company’s last foray into that arena.

Bridge to clean energy: Leaders mull WNC’s energy future

When the first transmission lines began popping up in the mountains 100 years ago, only one type of power provided the energy traveling through them — hydroelectric.

Legislators, governor usher in new age of clean energy

As more states have pledged their commitment to reducing carbon emissions over the last decade, North Carolina has begun to follow suit.

Waynesville hopes to spark residential solar generation

Unlike most North Carolina municipalities, the Town of Waynesville operates its own electric service, giving it greater local control over billing, rates and policies that monopolies like Duke Energy don’t offer.

Duke proposes $62 million solar rebate program

Duke Energy is proposing a $62 million solar rebate program designed to help its North Carolina customers with the upfront cost of installing solar panels on their property.

Solar in the Smokies: Duke proposes microgrid for Mt. Sterling

Utility companies are not often known for being in harmony with nature; indeed, Duke Energy’s recent coal ash fiascos come readily to mind when environmental and industrial concerns begin to comingle.

Solar farm comes to Bethel

out frThe agricultural community of Bethel now has a new type of farm in its midst — solar. 

Visible from U.S. 276, the 8.2-acre property sandwiched between the Bethel Community Cemetery and Exxon-Mobil gas station holds more than 6,000 solar panels, each 6 feet, 5 inches long and 3 feet, 3 inches wide. The whole array has a size of 1.5 megawatts, a rating that allows it to produce 2.9 million kilowatt-hours per year, enough to power 240 average U.S. homes.

Soaking in the sun: Solar energy movement comes to WNC

out frSolar power is on the rise across the U.S., and a campaign recently launched in Western North Carolina is urging mountain folk to join the trend. 

“You can only do what you can afford to do, and now that it’s affordable, people are taking advantage of it and getting involved,” said Avram Friedman, executive director of The Canary Coalition, one of the two groups collaborating on the Solarize WNC campaign. “I think we’ve sort of reached that critical mass when things are turning around.”

Haywood businesses catch the solar bug

 fr solarpanelsTwo technology-related businesses in Haywood County are looking to save some green by going green.

Local nursing home celebrates solar panel installation

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.

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