Both Buncombe County and the city of Asheville have resolved that, by the end of 2030, government operations will be powered entirely by renewable energy. With less than eight years until that deadline, what progress has been made toward the energy goals?
Two interlocal agreements up for consideration by the Board of Commissioners Oct. 5, to be signed with the town of Black Mountain and UNC Asheville, would allow those entities to combine their solar energy proposals with new county solar projects in a bid for installers.
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.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will vote on a resolution to adopt LEED Gold standards for new public facilities over 10,000 square feet and major renovations. The county’s policy would also require all new buildings to be constructed with solar-ready design and achieve net-zero energy use “where feasible.”
As outlined in a presentation available before the meeting by Jeremiah LeRoy, the county’s sustainability officer, the projects could save Buncombe County, A-B Tech, Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools roughly $27.2 million in total electricity costs over the next 30 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.”
Jeremiah LeRoy, Buncombe County’s sustainability officer, shares his top five reasons from 2019 to keep up hope about the county’s sustainability work.
Buncombe County has identified over $2.9 million in solar energy projects that could be installed at government-owned facilities. The projects are estimated to generate more than $4.7 million in energy savings over their estimated 30-year operational lifespan and help the county reach its goal of powering all government operations with 100% renewable energy by 2030.
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.
The new facility’s planned retirement is in 2059 — 17 years after Buncombe County government’s 2042 goal of transitioning all homes and businesses to completely renewable energy. Jason Walls, Duke Energy district manager, said his company is committed to helping local governments achieve their goals but that the new plant’s construction is based on forecasts of growing energy needs.
Jeremiah LeRoy is Buncombe County’s first sustainability officer. Learn more about him and the new position with Xpress’ Q&A.