Green in brief: Isaac Dickson solar system goes online

Celebration of Isaac Dickson solar system
FLIP THE SWITCH: Teachers and staff from Isaac Dickson Elementary School, along with community members and elected officials, celebrated the dedication of the school's 300 kilowatt-hour solar array Sept. 24. Photo by Pat Barcas, courtesy of Green Built Alliance

Six years in the making, a 300-kilowatt-hour solar array at Asheville’s Isaac Dickson Elementary School was officially dedicated Sept. 24. The $428,000 project is expected to save the school over $1.3 million in utilities costs over its 30-year operational life span.

Over $300,000 toward the system was raised through Appalachian Offsets, an initiative of the nonprofit Green Built Alliance that allows local businesses and individuals to offset their carbon emissions, with the support of Sundance Power Systems. The remaining funds came from a Duke Energy solar rebate and Asheville City Schools.

The system will allow Isaac Dickson to fulfill its original design as a Net Zero Energy school. Teachers also plan to use the solar panels as educational tools in science and math classes.

Buncombe County appoints environmental subcommittee

The first iteration of a new Buncombe County advisory group on the county’s response to climate change is now set. On Sept. 7, the county Board of Commissioners unanimously appointed Jamie Ager, Lena Hansen, Meg Jamison and Maggie Ullman to the Environmental and Energy Stewardship Subcommittee.

The four residents will join board Chair Brownie Newman, as well as Commissioners Parker Sloan and Terri Wells, in examining the county’s strategic priority of environmental stewardship. A June 15 resolution establishing the subcommittee listed potential areas of focus as including greenhouse gas emissions reductions, renewable energy development, solid waste management and green building, among other topics.

Buncombe has previously committed to power all governmental operations using renewable energy by 2030. According to a Sept. 17 presentation to the subcommittee by county staff, roughly 6% of operations currently use renewables, with an additional 25% to be powered by a utility-scale solar project under construction on the site of an old landfill in Woodfin.

Growing Outdoors Partnership receives $3M boost

An Asheville-based initiative to boost Western North Carolina’s outdoor economy has received extensive new support from both federal and local sources. The Growing Outdoors Partnership announced a $1.35 million Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, as well as a $900,000 grant from the Dogwood Health Trust, in a Sept. 22 press release.

“Providing a matching grant to attract the ARC POWER funds to our region is a great example of how Dogwood and partners like Mountain BizWorks can work collaboratively to bring more resources into WNC,” said Dr. Susan Mims, Dogwood’s interim CEO. “We are proud to play a role in supporting rural and diverse-owned businesses — in multiple outdoor-focused industries — that will increase access to economic opportunities that also support healthier lifestyles.”

An additional $750,000 in funding will come from regional partners such as Mountain BizWorks, the Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC, Western Carolina University and Appalachian State University. The project aims to create or retain 325 jobs over three years and catalyze over $18 million in new outdoor economy investments.

Opportunities knock

  • As winter approaches, low-income families in Buncombe County are eligible for free home weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades through the Asheville-based nonprofit Energy Savers Network. The improvements are designed to reduce energy bills for renters and homeowners while also cutting the county’s carbon emissions. More information is available at or by calling 828-585-4492.
  • The N.C. Farm Bureau’s Hurricane Relief Fund is providing up to $500 in direct assistance to Buncombe County producers impacted by Tropical Storm Fred. Requests for aid must be submitted by Sunday, Oct. 31. More information is available at, by email at or by phone at 919-783-4319.
  • The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is offering partial reimbursement for farmers who have certified or recertified as organic between October 2020 and September 2021. Up to $500 is available for certification in each of four categories: crops, livestock, wild crops and handler/processor. Applications must be postmarked by Friday, Nov. 19; more information is available at
  • Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC has launched a new job board for those seeking employment in the region’s outdoor industry. OGB members can post unlimited jobs for free, and the board is free for job seekers; other outdoors-focused industries can submit paid listings. More information is available at
  • Compost flyer
    BACK TO THE LAND: Buncombe County and the city of Asheville have opened new community drop-off sites for household compost. Graphic courtesy of the city of Asheville

    Buncombe County Solid Waste and the city of Asheville have opened two community drop-off centers for compostable materials. Residents can now bring food scraps, plant trimmings and compostable paper or plastic products to the Buncombe County Landfill Convenience Center and Stephens-Lee Recreation Center for processing. More information is available at

Get outside

  • FIND Outdoors is offering free guided tours of the Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah Forest at 1 and 3 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays throughout the fall. The 1-mile hikes interpret the history of the site, the location of the Biltmore Forest School — the country’s first school of forestry. More information is available at or by calling 828-877-3130.
  • The Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education, which sustained major damage from Tropical Storm Fred, has resumed classes at the DuPont State Recreational Forest and other locations. Upcoming offerings include guided trout fishing on the Pigeon River Saturday, Oct. 23, and a beginner’s class on casting at Lake Imagine Tuesday, Oct. 26. More information and registration are available at
  • Black Mountain Recreation and Parks hosts a free group hiking series focused on fall color each Friday through Nov. 5. Hikes include Brushy Mountain on Oct. 15, Blue Ridge Pastures on Oct. 22 and Glade Mountain on Oct. 29. More information and registration are available by calling 828-669-2052.
  • To mark its 50th anniversary, the Bryson City-based Nantahala Outdoor Center has announced a series of international adventure trips beginning in spring 2022. Options include rafting in British Columbia, mountain climbing on Mount Kilimanjaro and kayaking in Bhutan. More information is available at

Save the date

  • In response to ongoing high community transmission of COVID-19, the Outdoor Economy Conference has been postponed to Monday-Thursday, April 4-7. Organizers are now hosting an online workshop, Building Outdoor Communities, on the original conference dates of Wednesday-Thursday, Oct. 13-14. More information and registration are available at
  • Barnardsville-based permaculture school Wild Abundance is launching a new online course on the design and construction of sustainable tiny homes. Topics include tool use, natural building techniques and energy system options. Registration is available through Thursday, Nov. 4, at
  • The Asheville chapter of the American Institute of Architects and CASE Consultants International host the seventh Where Building Science Meets Climate Science conference at The Collider in downtown Asheville Thursday-Friday, Nov. 4-5. A free keynote address at 6 p.m. Nov. 4 by architects Joe Greco and Joshua Gassman discusses the Kendeda Building at Georgia Tech, a case study in Living Building Challenge certification. More information and registration is available at
  • Local environmentalists from the Bountiful Cities Project, Lenoir Rhyne University, Soil Sanctuary and The Utopian Seed Project are organizing a celebration for World Soil Day on Sunday, Dec. 5. Events throughout the day will share the importance of soil biodiversity and management, while Lenoir Rhyne will host a potluck and documentary screening in the evening. More information is available at or by emailing

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the former news editor of Mountain Xpress. His work has also appeared in Sierra, The Guardian, and Civil Eats, among other national and regional publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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