A new data book released Tuesday by the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association found that Onslow County leads its region in energy-efficient building design and explored possibilities for an offshore wind energy hub in Morehead City.
The 2011 Clean Energy Data book, the first of its kind, is intended to educate North Carolina residents, builders and employers about the sustainable energy strengths and opportunities within the seven main regions of the state, NCSEA spokeswoman Julie Robinson said.
“So much of this information was just scattered across different state agencies and websites; it wasn’t catalogued in one place at all,” she said. “This is just kind of taking that broad look at what opportunities are in the state.”
Onslow and Carteret counties fall within the eastern region of the state, which contains 13 counties and continues north to Nash County and west to Wayne. While the region trails the state in renewable energy use by existing firms, it ranks considerably better in structures with LEED or Energy Star certification, thanks in great part to the military presence in Onslow County.
Of the 99 LEED registered and certified buildings in the Eastern Region, 80 are in Onslow.
Navy Capt. Craig Fulton, director of Installation and Environment for Camp Lejeune, said every military construction project in the Navy and Marine Corps is required to reach a LEED Silver Certification, a designation by the U.S. Green Building Council signifying both energy efficiency and innovation in design.
“It’s good for us to move in this direction, not only with (military construction), but with major renovations of buildings,” Fulton said. “We’re not mandated to be LEED certified (in renovations), but we try to include energy saving technologies.”
Fulton said the requirement has significantly reduced energy consumption on base per square foot of construction.
Onslow also had the most geothermal energy systems in the area, with 54, followed by Carteret, with 31.
Officials with Atlantic Marine Corps Communities said the Marine Corps has also been an area leader in this category, installing geothermal systems in many of its military housing units.
AMCC deputy project director Matt Lynn said about 2,800 of the 8,000 homes AMCC operates have installed geothermal systems. About 1,200 of those homes are aboard Camp Lejeune.
Lynn said the military installed the systems before AMCC took over management in 2005, but the company has since invested heavily in renovating them to make them more efficient and effective. AMCC is also in the middle of efforts to install solar-powered water heaters in 2,200 homes in North and South Carolina and to bring large photovoltaic projects aboard Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point.
“We like to set the bar high,” he said.
One of NCSEA’s most significant recommendations for the eastern region was that the port of Morehead City in Carteret County become a hub for offshore wind energy.
“I believe the port has also been looking at that as a potential opportunity; and the Department of Commerce, as well as our organization, have definitely put that as a priority,” NCSEA spokeswoman Robinson said. “If there are going to be offshore wind farms up and down the east coast, they’re going to need major ports to bring those components.”
While officials with the port did not return phone calls Tuesday, they announced in April that wind energy projects were expected to generate significant new business for the port.
The report also recognized supermarket chain Food Lion for maintaining a number of Energy Star-certified stores across the state. Five certified supermarkets are within Onslow County, and all are operated by Food Lion.
While the eastern region still does not lead the state in any category for energy efficiency, staff with the Onslow County Cooperative Extension said they are doing their part to educate locals about the importance of sustainability and efficient energy practices.
Area specialized agent for Natural Resources Diana Rashash said the extension had an energy conservation intern for the summer, N.C. State rising senior Matt Carlson, who was producing energy newsletters, giving presentations to schoolchildren and conducting energy audits to determine usage.
Rashash said, on the civilian side, locals should know that there are tax benefits available for those who switch to geothermal or solar energy; and for small rural businesses, funding is available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assist in switching to solar power.
“I do know that when people get that utility bill in the middle of a heat wave, it prompts quite a bit of interest for a period of time,” Rashash said. “I like to think of doing energy conservation projects in your home as a gift that keeps on giving. The hard part is the cost of getting to do it up front.”