Although North Carolina is the 10th most populous state in the U.S., it it ranks just 22nd in installed photovoltaic (PV) solar capacity, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. But don’t blame the city of Raleigh for that. Raleigh recently turned on a 1.3-megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic array. It’s said to be the largest utility-scale solar power project on government property in the state.
The solar array sits on a 10-acre site and is a coordinated effort between the city of Raleigh, Progress Energy Carolinas, Southern Energy Management and NxGen Power. The solar PV array is expected to generate an estimated 1.7 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. The system is also expected to decrease overall carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1,300 tons annually, the same amount of emissions from the use of about 140,000 gallons of gasoline, according to Southern Energy Management.
Sustainability efforts are taking place throughout the city of Raleigh, and not just in the solar sector. The city has identified a number of areas in which it can incorporate sustainable measures to provide a better place to live for future generations. Those initiatives include preparing for a variety of green transportation options like participating in Project Get Ready. The program prepares for the availability of electric plug-in and hybrid vehicles.
The city has also created a citizens Environmental Advisory Board and adopted a specific set of fossil fuel reduction goals. Using the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ratings, the city has enacted a standard for energy efficiency for all city-owned buildings. Those include the requirement that all additions and new buildings over 10,000 square feet achieve silver-level LEED certification. City officials have also endorsed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement to develop a greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategy for the city.
Smaller changes are also going on at the city level in an effort to save energy. Those include changing out older lights to new, energy-efficiency LED lighting; greening of the city’s vehicle fleet; supporting the creation of green jobs; backing teleworking programs; and making use of water-saving techniques like rainwater harvesting, water re-use and tiered water rates.
Raleigh’s efforts are a reminder that while discussions about energy, climate change and the environment often take place at a global, national and state levels, municipalities are striking out on their own to make significant efforts at becoming more green. Just a few months ago, the city of Austin, Texas, made the move to become powered solely by renewable energy sources. The city’s libraries, recreational facilities and police and fire stations all run from 100 percent green energy. A total of 400 million kilowatt hours comes to Austin from wind farms throughout west and south Texas.
But no city can hold a candle to Greensburg, Kan., and its green efforts. When a tornado destroyed the town a few years back, the city rebuilt with all green in mind. All of the town’s buildings are LEED-Platinum certified except one – it’s LEED Silver.