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Fifteen years ago, the renewable energy landscape in North Carolina was very sparse. There were only a few large solar installations, wind turbines were practically nonexistent and less than a dozen landfill methane-to-energy projects were in operation. Then in 2001, a group of forward-thinking people came together to blaze a trail toward bringing green energy to North Carolina. Advanced Energy began working with consumers, environmental representatives, electric utilities, technology suppliers and regulatory agencies to turn North Carolina into a national model for renewable energy.

In October 2003, NC GreenPower was launched to supplement the state’s existing power supply with more green energy – that is, energy generated from renewable energy sources like the sun, wind, water, and organic matter. NC GreenPower’s first projects began coming online in 2004. Fast forward to today and North Carolina boasts a ranking of 2nd in the nation for solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, an achievement that was spurred on by the creation of NC GreenPower in partnership with the utilities.

In the last 10 years, there have been many changes in the renewable energy world. NC GreenPower began with a handful of projects and now has provided support to nearly 1,000 green power projects across the state, the majority of which have been residential solar PV. At the organization’s 10 year anniversary in 2013, the Board of Directors began a two-year strategic planning process to study the potential of transitioning the program into one that supports solar PV projects that benefit the overall local community.  

NC GreenPower Solar Schools was introduced on April 1, 2015.  This pilot program will use a portion of current donations to provide grants for the installation of small solar PV (2-3 kW) at North Carolina schools, providing clean, green renewable energy. The NC GreenPower Solar Schools pilot will offer matching funds to North Carolina K-12 schools who cannot afford solar PV technology, giving teachers valuable tools to educate students about renewable energy.  In its first year, the pilot program expects to be able to supply at least three and potentially as many as five schools with solar PV systems.

Any K-12 school in North Carolina may apply, though special emphasis will be made to target Tier 1 counties with the most need. Schools will be eligible for a 50 percent matching grant, up to $10,000, and NC GreenPower will assist the school with raising the balance of funds required with marketing and social media campaigns.  As part of the pilot, NC GreenPower will also provide real-time monitoring equipment and develop curriculum and lesson plans for educators to use across a variety of subjects, providing a hands-on experience for their students. NC GreenPower Vice President Vicky McCann says, “Our goal is to provide teachers and students with a really fantastic educational tool.”

The pilot will utilize the NC GreenPower fundraising website, my.NCGreenPower.org. My NC GreenPower is an online community for advocates of a cleaner, greener environment in North Carolina to join together for fundraising. Individuals and groups can create a profile page and launch campaigns, raising money to fund renewable energy and carbon offset generators across the state. Generators for the program can set up profiles with photos of their project and also help raise donations for NC GreenPower.

Any school representative wishing to apply for the NC GreenPower Solar Schools grant should visit http://www.ncgreenpower.org/solar-schools-pilot/ for more information and to download an application. Submissions for the pilot are due by 5:00 pm on Monday, June 1, 2015.

Katie Shepherd Lebrato

Katie Shepherd Lebrato is the marketing and communications manager for NC Green Power.