Frederick Banker, president of Nevada-based Renewable Energy Results, spoke to about 45 people at the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship Church about the county’s “solar future” during a meeting of the Pisgah Group of the Sierra Club.
“There’s no reason we couldn’t build 100 megawatts (of solar energy production) in this community,” said Banker, who lives in Pisgah Forest.
Banker, who has managed 60 commercial solar and wind energy projects worth more than $400 million, said local landmarks such as Brevard College and Brevard Health and Racquet Club could easily power its buildings with 3 to 4 megawatts of solar energy produced from roof panels.
Other buildings, such as the Transylvania County Public Library and Blue Ridge Community College’s local campus, have enough roof space to support as much as half a megawatt apiece, he said. Banker said that’s enough to power those places and then some.
Even nearby Rosman has high potential for solar development. Banker showed a Google Earth view of the town’s roofs, saying, “You could probably put panels on that high school there to power all of Rosman.”
“There are no emissions; it’s a beautiful source of energy — the panels are aesthetically pleasing, whether it’s on a roof or a ground mounted system — and you can see that the costs have gone down tremendously,” Banker said.
In 1997, Banker said the solar industry was paying about $76 per watt for a typical photovoltaic panel. Today, thanks to advances in manufacturing and technology, costs have dropped to 74 cents per watt. That now puts solar’s costs on par with those of coal-fired power plants.
“Actually, I had a quote last week for 55 cents per watt,” Banker said. “The cost of solar is still dropping dramatically and it’s especially represented in the cost of panels.”
Banker said he’s never lived in an area “so friendly and so wonderfully cultured.” But in driving around, he and his partner “don’t see a tremendous amount of solar development going on, on a commercial level or a residential level, in Transylvania County.”
That’s a shame, he said, because there’s plenty of sunlight available to tap for clean energy. For perspective, he showed a map developed by the U.S. Department of Energy showing “tremendous concentrations” of solar systems installed in San Francisco over the last 12 years.
In his next PowerPoint slide, Banker showed a map of “solar irradiance,outlining how much sunlight different areas of the country receive on average. Transylvania County and San Francisco’s sunlight availability are roughly identical.
“So it is, quite frankly, a great area for solar installations,” Banker said. “Yes, you do have shading issues with the forest, but you’ve got tremendous opportunity for the development of solar installations.”
Favorable tax incentives in North Carolina are driving solar’s growth statewide, Banker said. Although the legislature is under pressure to change it, currently those who install solar panels on their home or business receive a 35 percent tax credit.
“Quite frankly, those types of tax incentives are very, very close to what they experience in California,” he said.
Earlier this year, the Solar Energy Industry Association predicted that North Carolina would be fifth in the country in solar production, up from eighth. “Now it’s actually third in the country, as of last quarter,” he said, with 131.9 million watts sold. Banker said that’s enough to power 22,000 homes.
Banker encouraged audience members to get involved in advocating for more solar locally. He added, “I’m afraid if we don’t move other energy sources forward in Transylvania County, we’ll have the biomass developers come in and push their technologies.”
Reach Axtell at 828-694-7860 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Article source: http://www.blueridgenow.com/article/20131024/ARTICLES/131029922