CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Duke Energy Renewables has awarded $100,000 to the Center for Energy Education, a nonprofit organization whose mission encompasses research, education, and training workers for North Carolina’s growing solar industry.
Created by the solar development company, Geenex, LLC, the nonprofit will be located at the former Halifax County Airport, near Roanoke Rapids, N.C., adjacent to the 20-megawatt Halifax Solar Power Project owned by Duke Energy Renewables.
The center’s campus and 5,000 square-foot facility are under construction and expected to be complete in October 2016.
“Duke Energy Renewables’ support will enable us to take several big steps this year,” said Georg Veit, CEO of Geenex and chairman of the center’s board of directors. “Energy education has to start early in students’ lives, which leads to better professionals in the renewable energy industry.”
A portion of the funds is dedicated to a partnership with North Carolina State University’s The Science House, part of the school’s College of Sciences. The Science House will locate its Eastern North Carolina satellite office at the center and will work with local schools to provide resources, programs and teaching materials to K-12 educators.
In addition, the center will expand a professional development training program for N.C. science teachers that helps them integrate energy education into the established science curriculum. With Duke Energy’s gift, the middle-school program will expand to elementary and high school teachers.
“Duke Energy’s investment will enhance the ability of the Center for Energy Education to motivate educators and students toward study and work in renewable energy,” said Vernon Bryant, chairman of the Halifax County Board of Commissioners.
“Halifax County looks forward to partnering with the center in building a foundation of skilled, knowledgeable workers for this growing industry sector as well as opportunities for interactive experiences for residents and visitors through walking trails and energy exhibits,” Bryant added.
The vision for the Center for Energy Education was based on a strong relationship with Halifax County and long-term commitment to the area.
“Through the solar projects we’ve built in Eastern North Carolina, we’ve brought jobs and economic development to the region,” said Greg Wolf, president Duke Energy Commercial Portfolio and Duke Energy Renewables. “Many communities have welcomed us, and we’re pleased to participate in a program that benefits these communities and will help local men and women gain the skills to qualify for jobs in the solar industry.”
The donation also will be used to develop a quarter-mile walking loop that will connect the center to outdoor exhibits on campus.
“The concept of the walking trail was developed in response to community interest in more spaces for physical activity that can also be an inspiration for sustainability,” said Veit. “We envision the walking loop as a first step toward further campus development that will incorporate healthy lifestyles, sustainable living and education about the positive impacts of renewable energy.”
2015 marked a banner year for solar power in North Carolina as Duke Energy companies set a record for the amount of solar energy they added in the state — more than 300 megawatts (MW), enough to power about 60,000 average homes. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says North Carolina should be second only to California for utility-scale solar construction in 2015.
Since 2011, Duke Energy Renewables has built 25 solar facilities in North Carolina, representing 270 MW and an investment of about $700 million.
About Duke Energy Renewables
Duke Energy Renewables, part of Duke Energy’s Commercial Businesses, is a leader in developing innovative wind and solar energy generation projects for customers throughout the United States. The company’s growing portfolio of commercial renewable assets includes 18 wind farms and 35 solar farms in operation in 12 states, totaling about 2,500 megawatts in electric-generating capacity.
About the Center for Energy Education
The Center for Energy Education is a non-profit organization, located in Halifax County, N.C., whose mission is to be a cutting edge space where education, research and industry-leading professionals work and learn side by side. It is a space where the local community finds the inspiration and opportunities to become the energy professionals and advocates of sustainability of tomorrow.