Charlotte Powers Up With Solarize Charlotte!

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Solar power for the masses reaches Charlotte

By Bruce Henderson
Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014

MORE INFORMATION: Solarize Charlotte

A three-month campaign to broaden the appeal of rooftop solar systems has declared success in its aim of making them cheaper and simpler for Charlotte-area homeowners.

Solarize Charlotte launched in the hometown of the nation’s largest electric utility, Duke Energy, in April. The volunteer-run program offered discounts on installations and connected homeowners to tax savings and low-interest loans.

“One of the issues we all recognized was that even as solar dropped in price, people saw barriers,” said project assistant Michael Zytkow. “So the goal is to help with everything involved.”

About 600 people expressed interest in the program, of which 186 solicited proposals for systems. Twenty-four homeowners signed installation contracts, six made verbal agreements and 10 contracts are pending. Another 89 projects are still in the consultation stages.

North Carolina ranks fourth-largest in the nation for its solar capacity, says the Solar Energy Industries Association, but that’s mostly because of commercial-scale installations.

Duke Energy says about 1,700 North Carolina customers, most of them affluent, own rooftop solar systems. Solarize Charlotte’s focus included lower-income and non-white homeowners.

Initiative moved east

“My philosophy is that solar should be for everyone,” said Zytkow, whose full-time job is as a Greenpeace field organizer. “My background of activism is in meeting people where they are.”

Solarize Charlotte was an outgrowth of an initiative born in Portland, Ore., five years ago and adopted by dozens of communities under Energy Department-funded guidelines.

A coalition of more than 20 nonprofit advocacy groups and churches brought it to North Carolina. Similar programs have launched in Asheville, Carrboro and Durham.

The Charlotte campaign worked with a solar company, the RED Group, that offered bulk discounts on installations. State and federal tax credits pare the cost, and the program led homeowners to low-interest loans.

Cut cost of systems

All told, organizers say, those incentives could take up to 75 percent off the retail price of a solar system. Typical Solarize systems, including tax credits, cost about $4,500 to $8,000.

Solar panel prices have dropped sharply in recent years, and the arrays are now thinner and more aesthetically pleasing. The expiration of North Carolina’s 35 percent tax credit at the end of 2015 has also stimulated interest.

Still, “it takes a lot of consumer education to get people to the point where they’re ready to go solar,” said Cynthia Redwine, a partner in RED Group, a 2-year-old company formed by former Peace Corps volunteers.

Some potential customers, for instance, believe that net metering – in which utilities give homeowners with solar systems credit for the energy they generate – means they have to live off the grid, she said.

Starting in late April, Solarize volunteers went door-to-door, bought radio ads, staffed festival booths and made presentations to homeowners associations, clubs and churches.

Savings biggest factor

The campaigners pitched the environmental and economic aspects of solar power, but found most people responded to rising electricity rates.

“At the end of the day, that’s what resonates with people – their power bills,” Zytkow said. “One of the first things you hear out there is the idea of these (utility) monopolies. They’re captive customers, and they don’t have any options. A lot of it is rallying around the concept of choice.”

Charlotte homeowner Terry Taylor-Allen, a communications consultant on energy, environment and sustainability, heard about Solarize at a conference and quickly signed up.

Taylor-Allen and her husband, Mark Allen, had considered solar for years but hesitated at trying to sort through its technological aspects and financial viability.

“The very nice thing about Solarize Charlotte is that they sort of anticipate those wrap-around needs and solved those problems,” she said. “From that perspective, it’s a really, really good program. It facilitates a lot of decision- making.”

Their rooftop panels started generating electricity July 14.

Solarize Charlotte finishes as most successful residential solar program in NC

Solarize Charlotte Single

Solarize Charlotte finishes as most successful residential solar program in NC

August 5, 2104

Charlotte, NC—Thursday, July 31st marked the conclusion of Solarize Charlotte, the largest grassroots residential solar initiative in the state. In just three months, over 600 homeowners signed up for free solar assessments; 16 signed contracts and many more are expected to sign in the coming weeks. Demand for the program reflects not only the increasing affordability of solar, but also concerns about coal ash and Duke Energy’s rising rates.

Solarize is a Department of Energy-endorsed program that has taken off in dozens of cities across the country–including Durham, Carrboro, and Asheville–by minimizing the cost and hassle of going solar. By comparison, Solarize Durham finished with 380 assessments, Carrboro with 300 and Asheville with 3681. Through the concerted effort of many volunteers and a coalition of 24 non-profit organizations, Solarize Charlotte enrolled nearly double the homeowners of any other program in North Carolina for assessments.

Solarize Charlotte allowed any homeowner who wanted to reduce both their energy bills and carbon footprint to install panels on their roof at up to 75% off market value. The program essentially functioned as a bulk purchase agreement between a certified installer and a group of homeowners to leverage aggregated demand, lowering the cost of labor and materials. “These panels will reduce our energy bills considerably” said Charlotte homeowner, Joselle Anthony. “It’s pretty cool to see our meter running backwards. It means that we are getting credited for the extra energy our panels produce.”

This grassroots effort to increase access to residential solar succeeded, in part because of community concerns about energy issues and neighbors who helped spread the word.  “We live right next to Mountain Island Lake and the Riverbend coal ash dumps, which is a huge public health hazard,” said cancer survivor and teacher, Sara Behnke. “I’m excited about the opportunity to get panels on our roof because the best way to deal with coal ash is to not produce it in the first place.”

While the sign-up period has officially ended,  homeowners who enrolled in the program still have 30 days from the receipt of their proposal to sign contracts with Renewable Energy Design (RED) Group, the solar installer that was selected by a competitive bidding process–which means we will soon be seeing lots of new installations. “Solar is a great way to not only reduce your monthly electric bills, but do your part to keep our air and water clean,” said Cynthia Redwine, CEO of RED Group. “We have been delighted to talk to so many people who want solar and to design systems that let people tap into the enormous solar potential that NC has to offer.”

Solarize Charlotte is one of several solar programs that are popping up across the state to address demand for cleaner and cheaper energy options, so stay tuned for more sunny results on the horizon

Tell the EPA – Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency ARE part of the Climate Solution

Citizens from across the southeast are rallying in Atlanta today, July 29th, for Sold-Out Hearings for EPA Climate Plan as the Chamber of Commerce and Big Polluters Cry Wolf Over EPA Plan to Fight Climate Change and Protect Human Health.

Won’t you join them in solidarity and submit comments that Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency ARE part of the Climate Solution (see sample talking points below).

Email A-and-R-Docket@epa.gov: Include docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602 in the subject line of the message.

Thanks so much!

Power Plan Message BoxClean Power Plan Message Box

President Obama’s Climate Action Plan Fact Sheet & link to full plan:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/25/fact-sheet-president-obama-s-climate-action-plan

 

News articles on anticipated EPA proposed carbon rules:

http://grist.org/climate-energy/heres-what-to-expect-from-obamas-big-new-climate-rules/

http://www.nrdc.org/air/pollution-standards/files/pollution-standards-report.pdf

http://westhawaiitoday.com/news/nation-world-news/epa-readying-climate-rule-existing-power-plants-deadline-approaches

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/20/epa-power-plant_n_5356784.html

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-22/obama-divides-power-players-with-rule-utilities-accept.html

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/05/30/3442251/carbon-pollution-rule-attacks/

P.S. Want to submit a quick comment? Click on Tell President Obama and the EPA you support strong climate action!

July 23rd Monthly Meeting: Outdoor Treasures of Mecklenburg County

Outdoor Treasures

Please join us on Wednesday July 23rd for a presentation on the Outdoor Treasures of Mecklenburg County.

Stephen Hutchinson, Nature Center Manager at Latta Plantation, will present on the abundant resources of Mecklenburg Parks and Recreation Department. You will be delighted to learn about such great opportunities as kayak tours, canoe rentals, horseback riding, tractor drawn hay rides, cowboy style campfire dinners, Segway adventure tours, GPS treasure hunts, hiking, camping, and more – all nearby.

As usual our meeting is at the Mahlon Adams Pavilion in Freedom Park. It begins at 6:30pm with free pizza, followed by a short business meeting, and then the formal presentation.

Parking is free. All are welcome. We look forward to seeing you.

Join us July 31 for Solarfest: A Solarize Charlotte Celebration

Solarfest

Join us as we celebrate the success of Solarize Charlotte and look to the future! Since our launch in April, we have far surpassed our goals, reaching out to hundreds of homeowners across the city. And Solarize is just the beginning of the solar revolution for Charlotte and North Carolina.

We will have food (a variety of food trucks will be on location), drinks, music, kids activities, and volunteer appreciation.

We will celebrate those who helped make Solarize Charlotte so successful: our volunteers, coalition partners, installer, and homeowners.

Event Details:
July 31st
6-8:30pm
Area 15 (off N. Davidson St.)
514 E. 15th St.
Charlotte, NC 28205

NC Sierra Club Footnotes Online – July 2014

North Carolina Chapter Sierra Club

Dear friends,

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Our newsletter has a new look this month.  It’s part of our ongoing effort to make it easier for you to understand what’s going on in North Carolina and for you to take action on issues you care about.

Please enjoy this issue of Footnotes and thanks for all the work that you do to make our state a better place to explore, enjoy, and protect.

Cheers,

Your staff at the North Carolina Sierra Club

 

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Take Action on Coal Ash

Legislators from the NC House and NC Senate will soon start working on the final details of the coal ash bill.  We need you to write to legislators and let them know the final version of the bill must ensure that coal ash will no longer pollute our state’s waterways.

Every coal ash site in North Carolina is leaking. The only way to make sure all of North Carolina’s communities are protected from dangerous coal ash is for you to demand comprehensive action from legislators.

Click here to read more and to take action!

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Speak Up for Clean Water!

Right now, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is accepting public comment on a proposed set of water quality standards meant to keep North Carolina in compliance with the Clean Water Act and adopt EPA standards for metals.

Federal law requires states to review and update water quality standards every three years. North Carolina last did it in 2007. And while DENR has proposed a number of updates for the first time in 7 years, there are still some things missing that North Carolinians deserve.

Click here to read more and to take action today!

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Solar is Rising

Right now, North Carolina has the second most solar capacity in construction in the country. And this isn’t anything new.  For the past few years, our state has been a solar powerhouse, creating jobs and investment all across the state. However, the development that’s creating jobs and investment has been mostly limited to utility scale projects – large farms being clean energy online.

However, the NC Sierra Club is working to protect and expand policies that can make rooftop solar more practical.  Putting power on roofs is how NC can become first in solar. Find out more about our campaign and how you can stay in the loop at FirstinSolar.org.

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Wilderness Spotlight: Middle Prong

This month, we take a look at the Middle Prong Wilderness. This protected area was created by the 1984 Wilderness Act which celebrated its 30th anniversary in June.

Comprised of 7,900 acres in Western North Carolina, Middle Prong was once inhabited by the Cherokee and was settled by pioneers in the late 1700’s.  Find a full description of this wilderness area, including pictures and maps, at the most recent blog post on OurWildNC.org.

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Intern Spotlight

Every summer, the NC Sierra Club is lucky enough to have interns help tackle the tasks related to protecting our air, water, and natural places.  This year, we have two top notch interns helping on everything from legislative issues to wilderness and everything in between.

Please take a moment to learn about the great work being done by Brianna van Stekelenburg and Caroline Spence in their intern spotlight profiles and thank them for all that they do.

Click here to read about our 2014 summer interns.

Upcoming Events and Outings

Note: The deadline to participate in the Wilderness Challenge has been extended to July 31Click here for challenge details and to register!

August 22 – 24Outings Leader Training at Hanging Rock State Park

This training is for outings leaders who have taken Sierra Club OLT101 (basic outdoor leadership training) within the last 4 years.  This training will prepare participants to lead overnight trips away from cars (Sierra Club Level 2 outings).

Space is limited and the registration deadline is Wednesday August 6th.

Please contact Kelly Mieszkalski (kellymieszkalski@yahoo.com, 919.624.2225) or Nancy Card (nostalgicnan@gmail.com or 910.540.3088) with any questions.

Click here to register via Eventbrite!

August 2Tree ID Walk (summer edition) – Clemmons State Forest, Clayton, NC

Join the Capital Group for a summertime walk in the woods and tree identification outing. Hike consists of 0.6 miles on the talking tree trail and 0.8 miles on the talking rock trail. Guests may want to bring your bird or tree guidebook or a bottle of water. This is not a backcountry hike and no special skills or equipment are required. Outing is free and open to the public, limited to the first 12 to sign up at: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/tree-id-walk-tickets-12243363229

August 16Shining Rock Wilderness Day Hike – Near East Fork, NC

This hike is part of the Our Wild North Carolina Celebration!  This is a moderately strenuous 10-mile round trip hike that will cross Black Balsam Knob, Tennent Mountain, and Flower Knob to Shining Rock and be at altitudes above 6,000 ft.  For more information, contact Joel Wooten at (336) 466-1314 before 9:00 pm, or joelhike@yahoo.com.  Wilderness outings are limited to 10 hikers. Click here more information.

Want to know the latest? Join us on Facebook or Twitter!

Did you know you can make a monthly gift to the NC Sierra Club? Find out how you can make a sustaining gift by visiting our website, or contacting the Chapter office at 919-833-8467.

Money Flower

Donate Button

New Video: Why Does Duke Energy Hate Solar Power in North Carolina?

NC WARN has launched a statewide campaign to expose Duke Energy’s efforts to destroy North Carolina’s growing solar power industry at the rooftop and large-scale levels. To learn more about their campaign, got to Why Does Duke Energy Hate Solar?

Get everyone you know to send a short email to NC Utilities Commission Chair Ed Finley (statements@ncuc.net) about the upcoming solar hearing in Raleigh. This particular hearing is about large-scale solar but has implications for rooftop systems as well. Tell Commissioner Chair Ed Finley why large-scale solar is valuable for North Carolina. Please reference docket E-100 Sub 140 in the subject line.

Looking to become a Solar Energy installer?

CPCC Center for Sustainability is holding a 40 hour continuing education course on installation and design of solar photovoltaics.

This course covers instruction on the physical principles, equipment, system components, and site analysis, and provides training in the basic skill set for design and installation of solar photovoltaics power systems. Design of Grid tied solar systems for residential and commercial buildings will be taught. A portion of the course will discuss standalone systems. It has 40 hours of instruction the last part of which is the completion of the NABCEP Entry Level Exam. The course will be offered over 2 intense weekends to enable full time workers to fit the course into their schedule. Completion of the coursework is sufficient training for students to be eligible to take the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Entry Level Exam for solar photovoltaics installers. The NABCEP certification is the “gold standard” for professional accreditation in renewable energy systems. The test is included in the 40 hours of training.

CPCC CforS ENV7200

“Energizing Charlotte with Solar Power” – Program and Materials

We had a great turnout and response to our Solarize Charlotte program last night! Thanks again to Myers Park Baptist Church, the Cornwell Center, and the EarthKeepers for hosting the event. Big, big kudos and thanks to Mary Lou Buck for her great logistics and promotion, Rachel Shook for materials and signs, Bob Thomason for leading two tours of the church solar installation, and our presenters Solarize Champion Steve Rundle  and RED Group Jeff Redwine!!!

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Presentation on Solarize Charlotte Program

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Video on the RED Group and the Solarize Charlotte sign up/installation process

Video on Solarize Charlotte related tax issues

NC Solar Center: Residential Customer Guide to Going Solar

Duke Solar Residential GuideDuke-Energy-Carolinas-Solar-Guide

Solarize Charlotte Resources

Solarize Charlotte
www.cleanerischeaper.com

Solarize Charlotte Facebook
www.facebook.com/SolarizeCharlotte

Renewable Energy Design Group, l3c (RED Group)     
www.redgroupnc.com

NREL’s PVWatts® Calculator 
www.pvwatts.nrel.gov

NC Sierra Club Solar
www.nc2.sierraclub.org/issue/solar

NC Sustainable Energy Association
www.energync.org

 

Please share this link and information with your friends and neighbors. Solarize Charlotte is hot, hot, hot!

18 months

 

Learn How To Put Solar On It: June 24 – “Energizing Charlotte with Solar Power”

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Have you been considering solar energy for your home? Find out why now is the time to join the solar revolution going on in the greater Charlotte area! Solarize Charlotte offers group volume discounts; free financial analysis and site evaluation and expert installation by the Renewable Energy Design Group, L3c (RED Group); and, an easy financing option by Admirals Bank through their expedited solar loan process. Act now to take advantage of the special Solarize Charlotte program which ends July 31st. Make plans to join us for this informative and energizing program!

Energizing Charlotte with Solar Power
Making Residential Solar Easy and Affordable
June 24th Free Program and Tour

Tuesday, June 24th
Tours from 6:30 – 7:00 PM (Please RSVP to cleanerischeaper@gmail.com)
Program from 7:00 – 8:00 PM

Myers Park Baptist Church
The Cornwell Center – Learning Center Room
2001 Selwyn Avenue
Charlotte, NC 28207

For more information on Solarize Charlotte go to CleanerIsCheaper.com or call (919) 324-6508

Energizing Charlotte with Solar Power June 24