The yearlong campaign begins April 1 and seeks to outfit at least 100 residents and businesses with solar energy systems by the end of 2021.
“Many items that are now standard construction practices have been removed from our checklist, while we have added opportunities to gain points for new technologies,” explained Maggie Leslie, the nonprofit’s program director.
“If it was truly perceived as an emergency, then I think we would be doing more and talking about it more,” says Asheville City Council member Kim Roney, who was elected in November on a platform that included a local Green New Deal and rapid renewable energy deployment.
On Nov. 18, nonprofit Conserving Carolina announced that it had entered a contract to buy an unused 19-mile rail corridor between Brevard and Hendersonville for conversion into a greenway. Backers hope the Ecusta Trail will become a regional draw for running and biking enthusiasts.
“We are showing women how to see their land as an asset and how to make it work economically and to see that future,” explains Aimee Tomcho, a Burnsville-based conservation biologist for the National Audubon Society and leader of Western North Carolina’s ForestHer chapter.
Black Folks Camp Too founder Earl B. Hunter Jr. said new marketing collaborations would help him develop more interest in camping among the Black community. And later this month, Asheville-based artist Matthew Willey will begin work on a giant mural of honey bees at Hendersonville’s Hands On! Children’s Museum.
Deteriorating forest roads damage the ecosystem and limit access essential for forest management and the forest-product economy.
Together, the city of Asheville and Buncombe County approved over $11 million in funding to install roughly 7 megawatts of solar power at public facilities and area schools. The projects are anticipated to save the governments and local schools roughly $650,000 in electricity costs in the first year and more than $27 million over the installations’ 30-year operational life.
Although gleaning dinner from nature inherently offers some freedom from the social framework, COVID-19’s disruptions still reached many locals who normally take to the outdoors in spring to gather ramps, morels and other seasonal morsels.
“It was the biggest hive I’ve ever seen,” says beekeeper Brandon Delcambre, about what he and his wife Kimberley uncovered in West Asheville during a hive relocation for their business, Couple of Bees. “I’m about 6’1”, and I was standing next to it — It had to be at least 7 feet tall. It’s been there for at least 10 years.”
Mike Diethelm, president and founder of Asheville-based SolFarm Solar Co., says a $10 million construction bond requirement for would-be bidders on the solar projects “knocks out so many local medium and small solar businesses, which we have a lot of in this town, and only opens it up to the big guys.”
The region’s small farms have been rocked by the coronavirus, but community support and innovative thinking have enabled many local growers to pivot and persist as they work to find a way forward.
Camps have already suffered layoffs and revenue loss without the spring season, says Sandi Boyer, executive director of the North Carolina Youth Camp Association. But if they can’t operate this summer, they will face nearly 22 months without earned income. “It would be devastating for the camp industry to not open at all,” she says.
“Sustainability is a vast field where you can get into agriculture, transportation, manufacturing and energy,” says Heath Moody, head of the Sustainability Technologies program at A-B Tech. “These skills are vital for society going forward.”
Kristin Weeks, managing partner and co-owner of the Asheville location of Fifth Season Gardening Co., says business is booming in the wake of COVID-19. “People are coming in and spending a lot more money; the average invoice has gone up, too,” she says. “People are kind of just coming in and going for it.”
Not everyone is reaping the benefits of the booming industrial hemp sector. Although hard numbers are in short supply, a 2017 survey by the Marijuana Business Daily, a Colorado-based website, found that 81% of cannabis-related business owners nationwide were white. A Thursday, Jan. 9, panel will explore the lack of representation of people of color in the growing industry and some possible solutions.
Jeremiah LeRoy, Buncombe County’s sustainability officer, shares his top five reasons from 2019 to keep up hope about the county’s sustainability work.
At 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 19, a public hearing will take place in Room B of the Mission Health/A-B Tech Conference Center at 340 Victoria Road in Asheville regarding Duke Energy’s plans to build a 12.5-acre landfill on its property beside Lake Julian.
The $100,000 report, commissioned from Massachusetts-based consultants The Cadmus Group, finds that local government action will be insufficient for Asheville and Buncombe County to run operations entirely on renewable energy by their goal date of 2030 without the purchase of renewable energy certificates or significant state-level regulatory changes.
Although nearly 100 public charging stations are currently installed within 15 kilometers (9 miles) of Asheville, many more are on the way. Governments, businesses and private individuals are all stepping up their efforts to electrify the way WNC gets around, with major pushes including Gov. Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 80 and Duke Energy’s ET Pilot.
The 10th Congressional District representative’s constituents challenged him on issues including climate policy, Israel-U.S. relations and the behavior of President Donald Trump at his annual Buncombe County town hall on July 31 at the Riceville Community Center.