CCAGP Success Stories

OWASA solar array funded by Orange County Climate Action Grant

The fourth and largest of OWASA’s solar arrays is officially online and producing clean energy at Cane Creek Reservoir.

Photo of Cane Creek Solar ArrayThe Cane Creek Reservoir solar array project was the recipient of a $75,000 grant from the Orange County Climate Action Grant Program. This 350 kW solar array on more than one acre of land will reduce electricity purchased, along with the associated greenhouse gas emissions, to run pumps that send raw water from the reservoir to the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant.

"We are very excited that this program received an Orange County Community Climate Action Grant," said Jamezetta Bedford, Chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners. "This is a program begun by the Board of Commissioners in 2020 to accelerate climate change mitigation actions focused on reducing our carbon footprint and transitioning to clean energy. This solar array is a perfect example of the purpose of the grant program."

“This solar project is just one of the many ways that OWASA is committing to reduced energy use and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Executive Director Todd Taylor. “I am particularly proud that due to the creative public-private partnership used to develop our solar projects, they will financially break even in year one of their operations. They are a win-win for the environment and our customers."

Habitat for Humanity Solar Panels

Habitat for Humanity of Orange County celebrated the dedication of another new home with solar panels installed on it. Habitat for Humanity home with solar panels This work was supported by our Community Climate Action Grant program, which provided $95,000 in grant funding to Habitat Humanity in 2021 to install solar on 10 new habitat homes.  

These panels will reduce energy costs for homeowners and lower carbon emissions in Orange County. Habitat received an additional $100,000 in grant funding from the Community Climate Action Grant program in 2023 to continue to install solar on habitat homes being built in Orange County.

Neighborhood Energy Resiliency Project (NERP)

The Orange County Community Climate Action Grant Program is currently funding a program called the Neighborhood Energy Resiliency Project (NERP) which is being led by the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA).  The program aims to provide energy retrofits and repairs to low income homeowners in Carrboro, NC that will increase energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gasses and save money on energy bills.

NERPThe program begins with home assessments, which involve identifying energy efficiency upgrades and repairs with residents. NCSEA is using neighborhood canvassing and personal referrals to reach residents and help spread the word about the program.   The Association has benefited from working with Tamara Sanders, a community organizer from the neighborhood who NCSEA says has been able to work directly with the residents and help build rapport with the larger team.

 In the work that the association has done, NCSEA has found it more impactful to begin with air sealing and insulation to make homes more energy efficient. According to Daniel Pate, NCSEA’s Energy Program Manager, “Sealing air leaks in areas such as duct work and plumbing penetrations can stop conditioned air from escaping.”  Pate also says: “After air sealing, ensuring that there is insulation that is in working condition and properly installed is the next critical step to having an energy efficient home.” While air sealing is a “top priority” for the project, the team has also looked into gutter installation and HVAC system repairs or tuning.

NCSEA has also helped homeowners qualify for a larger government program called the North Carolina Weatherization Assistance Program (NCWAP) which offers weatherization services to homes that are 200% below the federal poverty level.  “Some homes need repairs first in order to qualify for the program”, which, according to Pate, NCSEA hopes to give support for.

Community member have reacted positively overall to the project, with emotions ranging from “immense gratitude and absolute elation to the point of tears” according to Pate. One of those homeowners, Lily Atwater, who lives on Glosson Circle in Carrboro, says, “I have been here at least 50 years and never had gutters, and now I have them so water can stop draining under my house. The people that came have been very professional, quite kind, and very nice to the older people – it’s such a good program and I hope it continues.”

The program was recently featured on WUNC Public Radio and the Energy News Network!

Cedar Falls Park LED Project 

cedar falls fieldThe Orange County Climate Action Grant funded the installation of LED lights at the Cedar Falls multi-purpose athletic park in Chapel Hill!  At the park, 48 metal halide light fixtures were replaced with 40 LED fixtures. The LEDs will save more than $97,150 in utility costs over their useful life (25 years), as well as save an astounding 28,230 pounds of GHG emissions per year, which comes to about 320 metric tons over the 25-year life of the system. The LED lights also reduce maintenance needed because they are replaced less often than typical light fixtures.

Community Sustainability Manager, John Richardson is excited about the success of this project and the future projects it has inspired. Richardson said: "New improvements with the park are ‘snowballing’ and picking up momentum because of the great start that the grant provided." The park recently got new environmentally friendly turf made out of bamboo for example. Senior Manager of Park Planning and Operations, Kevin Robinson, said: “Because of the financial, environmental and social benefits this project has provided, it doesn't make sense not to do these things.” Both Richardson and Robinson agreed that this project could not have been completed without the funds from the grant, and that it has propelled them to continue to make the park even more sustainable. 

The ArtsCenter Project the artscenter

The ArtsCenter in Carrboro will soon celebrate a new home! The ArtsCenter is a grant recipient of the Community Climate Action Grant from the 2021 and 2022 grant cycle. 

The ArtsCenter received two grants: 1) To install solar panels and 2) For the installation of bike racks, electric bike, and electric vehicle charger stations. The solar panels will allow for energy usage to pay for itself as well as generate income from selling surplus solar energy back to the grid through a partnership with Duke Energy. The enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will give the ArtsCenter access to tax credits for transitioning to renewable energy.  The bike racks, electric bike and electric vehicle charger stations will be powered by the solar array installed by Spotlight Solar, a locally sourced and operating North Carolina solar business. 

The ArtsCenter is excited to continue their mission to promote sustainability not only in their new building but in their existing programs: STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) and purposeful art creation. The ArtsCenter’s major upgrade is not only an exciting time for the local artists of Carrboro it is also an important step towards sustainability and Orange County’s role as leaders of local climate action.