Solarize Asheville-Buncombe to Launch Bulk-Purchase Solar Community Campaign on Wednesday, April 7
For Immediate Release:
March 25, 2021
Local Solarize Campaign Centers Workforce Development, Affordability
Asheville, N.C. — A coalition of local organizations is launching Solarize Asheville-Buncombe, a community-based group-purchasing solar campaign that makes solar energy and battery storage more affordable to participants. A virtual launch event on Wednesday, April 7 at 6:00 p.m. will feature Vice-Mayor Sheneika Smith, Buncombe County Commission Chair Brownie Newman, and Solarize Asheville-Buncombe Steering Committee members.
Both the City of Asheville and Buncombe County have adopted a community-wide goal to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2042. The Solarize coalition – consisting of partners such as Green Built Alliance, MountainTrue, Green Opportunities, and Hood Huggers International – will help residents and businesses along that path by reducing barriers and costs to solar energy and lowering the carbon footprint of our community.
Solarize Asheville-Buncombe is open to all property owners in Buncombe County, and follows a campaign model that has been successful in more than 300 other communities in the U.S. Based on a tiered “bulk” purchasing platform, the more local residents and business owners that contract for their solar installations through the campaign, the greater the savings are for all. However, Solarize Asheville-Buncombe is nationally-unique in its focus on equitable workforce development in the green energy industry and affordability initiatives.
Media are invited to speak with the Solarize Asheville-Buncombe team and Vice-Mayor Sheneika Smith on Monday, April 5 between 3:00-4:30 p.m. outside 21 Mardell Circle in the Burton Street Community in West Asheville.
The Solarize committee included a goal of fostering local workforce development in the campaign’s contract for interested solar installers. In the process, Solarize-Asheville Buncombe has established a partnership with Green Opportunities (GO), an Asheville-based nonprofit committed to empowering marginalized communities toward sustainable employment. This collaboration aims to create long-lasting pathways to clean energy jobs in Buncombe County.
“GO is honored and excited to be a part of this initiative,” said Ben Williamson, executive director (interim) of Green Opportunities. “Green sector jobs are on the rise, and many positions in this sector are accessible to those with traditional obstacles to employment. We have already begun researching training programs for these jobs and look forward to launching soon. We also know climate change disproportionately impacts low-income communities and communities of color and that increasing access to clean, renewable energy is a step in the right direction in that fight.”
Going solar can decrease energy and economic burdens for all participants and, in particular, for low- and moderate-income community members, of which communities of color make up a disproportionate share. Another priority for the Solarize committee is to create deeper cost reductions for solar energy for low and moderate income community members via fundraising and financing. The campaign is fundraising and securing grant and foundation funding to increase accessibility and affordability of solar, and also utilizing census tract data and the City of Asheville’s energy burden map to prioritize outreach.
Already, more than 70 individuals have signed up for a free solar evaluation at their properties since the campaign began accepting advance registrations. Interested residents and businesses may go to www.solarizeabc.com now to learn more, receive advance information on campaign details, register for the April 7 virtual launch event, and sign up for a free evaluation. Descriptions of tiered pricing and equipment options will be forthcoming as well as details about valuable energy tax credits that can be applied in 2021.
About Solarize Asheville-Buncombe: Solarize Asheville-Buncombe is a campaign forged and supported by a local public-private coalition involving Blue Horizons Project, City of Asheville, Buncombe County, Green Built Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club – WENOCA, Hood Huggers International, Umoja Collective, MountainTrue, Green Opportunities, Asheville Homestay Network and The Collider, and administered by Solar Crowdsource. Solarize Asheville-Buncombe aims to lower the cost of solar energy and battery storage installations through the power of bulk purchasing, reducing contractor acquisition costs, and transferring those savings to the residential and commercial residents.
Contact: Ken Haldin | email@example.com | (404) 405-2924
Sophie Mullinax | firstname.lastname@example.org | (828) 484-6585
The Not-So-Micro Issue of Microplastics
By Hannah Woodburn, High Country Water Quality Administrator of MountainTrue
While we see it everywhere, mass-produced plastic has only existed since the 1950’s. Not only does producing plastic create greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, but our air, food and water systems are becoming increasingly contaminated with tiny pieces of plastic – called microplastics – that are a concern for ecosystem and human health.
Microplastics are defined as being smaller than 5mm and enter our freshwater systems through runoff and industrial processes. They can be purposefully designed to be small (think microbeads), or they can be fragments of larger items like tires, fishing line, water bottles and synthetic clothing.
So How Did We Get Here?
The amount of plastic created worldwide has increased from 1.5 million metric tons in 1950 to 359 million metric tons in 2018. Plastic materials are derived from ethane, a natural gas product, and are extracted using a method called fracking. Every stage of plastic production results in greenhouse gas emissions, releasing a variety of pollutants during the process. Further, the US is the top producer and exporter of ethane in the world, and our plastic production is currently projected to double by 2050.
While plastics do represent a milestone in technological and chemical development, between 26-40% of all plastics are made with the intention to be single-use items – like food packaging, bottles, cups, plastic bags, housewares and cosmetic packaging. This poses a great environmental concern, especially when only 6.6% of all the plastic produced in 2018 was recycled and only a small portion of plastic can actually be recycled in the first place: items marked 1, 2, and sometimes 5.
Left: Sampling for microplastics at the MountainTrue lab. Right: This tiny red fiber that showed up in our microplastics sampling is smaller than .5mm, and likely from a piece of fishing line or synthetic clothing.
How We Sample For Plastics
MountainTrue has started sampling for plastics on the French Broad, Green and Watauga Rivers, and will begin plastics sampling on the Hiwassee River this spring. For the macroplastics portion, we ask volunteers to collect trash and record how long they were there, what types of plastic they find, what brands are most prevalent, the number of pieces collected in total and how much time the volunteers sampled for.
To assess the presence of microplastics, which are often too small for the naked eye to see, volunteers take a water sample at each site in a one-quart glass jar and bring them back to our lab. We then process the water samples via vacuum filtration, look at the filter paper underneath a microscope and record the number of microplastics found in each sample.
What Can You Do?
Personal change is important, but our consumer choices alone are not enough to spark systemic change. We cannot “recycle” our way out of this issue.
We need to ask our legislators to help protect our communities and ecosystems from single-use plastics. The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act was introduced to Congress in 2020, but did not make it to a floor vote. However, this bill will be reintroduced this month, and it provides a comprehensive plan to eliminate single-use plastics at a federal level. We encourage you to take action and sign the petition asking President Biden to be a #PlasticFreePresident here.
#PlasticFreePresident Action Items That President Biden Can Take Without Congress:
1. Use the purchasing power of the federal government to eliminate single use plastic items and replace them with reusable items.
Suspend and deny permits for new or expanded plastic production facilities
2. Make corporate polluters pay and reject false solutions
3. Advance environmental justice in petrochemical corridors
4. Update existing federal regulations to curtail pollution from plastic facilities by using best available science and technology
5. Stop subsidizing plastic producers
6. Join international efforts to address global plastic pollution
7. Reduce and mitigate the impacts of discarded and lost fishing gear
MT Raleigh: The General Assembly’s Back In Action
The North Carolina General Assembly is back in action for its 2021 session – and MountainTrue is ready with a list of suggestions for legislators to protect Western North Carolina’s natural resources.
In recent weeks, our staff have met with legislators from across the region to educate them about our 2021 legislative priorities and to hear about their To-Do lists for the session. Thanks to Senators Deanna Ballard, Chuck Edwards and Kevin Corbin, as well as Representatives Jake Johnson, Tim Moffitt, Mark Pless, Karl E. Gillespie and Ray Pickett for taking the time to meet with us. We’ll also meet with other members of the WNC delegation through the early weeks of the session.
Some of MountainTrue’s priorities for 2021 include:
Water Quality Solutions
- Increase funding to help farmers improve water quality. Agricultural waste is a significant source of E. coli and other bacterial pollution in WNC’s waters. Allocating more money to help local Soil and Water Conservation Districts help farmers with fencing and other pollution control efforts will keep agricultural waste out of rivers and streams.
- Address failing septic systems. Failing septic systems are another major source of bacteria. Reinstating the Wastewater Discharge Elimination (WaDE) program will help reduce this pollution. Before it was cut several years ago, WaDE visited 13,379 WNC homes and identified 2,016 sources of water pollution in WNC – mostly from leaking and failing septic systems.
- Help property owners reduce stormwater pollution. Stormwater is the third largest source of bacteria in NC’s waters. The Community Conservation Assistance Program (CCAP) allows WNC’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts to help property owners reduce stormwater pollution. Like the cost-share program for farmers, existing CCAP funds are insufficient to meet the demand for assistance.
Improving Access and Quality of Outdoor Recreation
Outdoor recreation is a $28 billion business in North Carolina, and WNC’s outdoor industry accounts for thousands of jobs in our region. Improving access to our region’s wild places builds support for their protection and helps our economy. That’s why we support the following investments:
- Expanded public access and improvements to the Watauga River and French Broad River Paddle Trails
- Improvements to public access and trails for a popular recreational area on the Green River Game Lands in Henderson and Polk counties
- Dam removal and improved fishing access on the Watauga River
- Trail improvement and other investments to improve outdoor recreation on the Tuckasegee River in Swain County
- New public access for float boats on the Valley River in Cherokee County
- Expanded funding for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund as well as the North Carolina Land and Water Fund (formerly known as Clean Water Management Trust Fund) to help preserve the health of critical watersheds.
The General Assembly will now be in session every week through mid-summer. Stay tuned for updates from us on how our region’s waters, recreation spots and communities fare at the legislature in the coming months.
Speaking up for WNC’s environment in Raleigh is central to MountainTrue’s mission – that’s why we are the only WNC environmental organization with a year-round advocate in the capitol. Your support of MountainTrue is key to our success, so thank you for making our state policy work possible!
MT Raleigh Report: Two Good News Appointments, What’s Next at the General Assembly
How about a little bit of good news to start the New Year?
In case you missed it, two of North Carolina’s environmental leaders got new, high profile jobs recently.
First, Secretary of the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) Michael S. Regan was appointed by President-Elect Joe Biden to lead the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Prior to leading NC DEQ, Secretary Regan led clean energy expansion programs at the Environmental Defense Fund, and also served as an air quality expert at the EPA for almost a decade. You might remember that Secretary Regan also received hundreds of public comments from MountainTrue members and our allies calling for full excavation of North Carolina’s coal ash in 2019 – a decision he ultimately ordered, resulting in the largest coal ash cleanup in US history.
Based on today’s projected Senate runoff results, it is likely that Regan’s appointment will be approved by the Senate. His appointment to the head of the EPA is important and historic – he would be the first Black man to lead the agency and the second Black leader to ever hold this position. He would guide the agency’s efforts on two enormous tasks: restoring environmental rules and enforcements gutted by the previous administration, and advancing Biden’s goals of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 and eliminating fossil fuel emissions from the power sector by 2035.
Additionally, Governor Cooper has appointed Reid Wilson to be Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The Department oversees 39 state parks and recreation areas as well as an array of museums, historic sites and cultural organizations and agencies.
Wilson, who previously served as the Department’s Chief Deputy Secretary, has a long history in conservation including serving as executive director of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC), chief of staff to former EPA Administrator Carol Browner and national political director for the Sierra Club.
Having two supremely qualified North Carolinians from the environmental movement at the top of these agencies should be welcome news to those of us who are concerned about the protection of our land, air and water. We’ll keep you posted on the leadership transition at NC DEQ as Governor Cooper works through the appointment process to fill the void left by Secretary Regan’s departure.
In other news, the 2021 General Assembly convenes on January 13 for a ceremonial session to swear in new members. Then, after a short break, legislators will return to Raleigh on January 27 to begin the real work of the long session.
Here at MountainTrue we are already holding meetings with legislators throughout the region to go over our – and their – to-do lists for 2021. Look for an overview of MountainTrue’s legislative priorities soon, and thank you for your support!
MT Raleigh Report: First Thoughts on the NC General Assembly Election Results
After millions of dollars in campaign spending, a gazillion political ads and much gnashing of teeth (as well as far too many tweets), the balance of power in the next North Carolina General Assembly is clear. At the state level, all of that politicking has landed us, well, right back where we started.
Roy Cooper, a Democrat, was elected Governor for a second term. And despite many pundits’ predictions to the contrary, Republicans maintained their control of both the state House and the state Senate – but without the veto-proof majorities they enjoyed in the first two years of Cooper’s first term.
So essentially, the elections have given us the same political environment in Raleigh that we’ve had for the last few years. It’s a political arrangement that has produced a good deal of deadlock – on the budget, on Medicaid, and on climate change to name just a few issues – and seems likely to do so again for the next two years.
Unfortunately, the deadlock is likely to get worse. Next year, lawmakers will face a multi-billion dollar shortfall as a result of the pandemic and its impact on the economy. If lawmakers and the Governor could not come to agreement on a budget before the budget crisis, it’s hard to imagine how they will come to agreement on the budget cuts and/or revenue increases that will be necessary to deal with billions in red ink.
On a more positive note, several legislators from WNC who have worked with MountainTrue to help us protect our rivers and streams will return to Raleigh. Senator Chuck Edwards of Henderson County, for example, is the chairman of a key appropriations committee and has helped us secure funding for water quality testing, spill response and expanded public river access for paddlers and other recreation enthusiasts. Likewise Senator Deanna Ballard, who represents counties in the Watauga River basin, has helped us protect and expand access to the river. This has included funding for the Wards Mill Dam removal project. We are also grateful for the return of Representatives John Ager, Brian Turner and Susan Fisher, who have been champions for the French Broad Watershed and MountainTrue’s legislative agenda.
Elsewhere in WNC, however, Representative Ray Russell of Ashe and Watauga Counties and Representative Joe Sam Queen of Haywood, Jackson and Swain – both solid votes for our region’s environment and strong supporters of MountainTrue – were defeated Tuesday.
And of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that MountainTrue’s very own Co-Director, Julie Mayfield, is heading to Raleigh in January to represent Buncombe County in the state Senate seat. Julie will fill the seat that was left vacant when former Senator Terry Van Duyn ran for Lieutenant Governor.
That’s probably enough campaign talk for now. Look for updates about MountainTrue’s legislative agenda soon, but until then thank you, again, for your support of our work in WNC and in Raleigh.
|District||Seat Now Held By||Seat Formerly Held By||Counties Represented|
|House 113||Jake Johnson||Jake Johnson||Henderson, Polk, Transylvania|
|House 114||Susan C. Fisher||Susan C. Fisher||Buncombe|
|House 115||John Ager||John Ager||Buncombe|
|House 116||Brian Turner||Brian Turner||Buncombe|
|House 117||Tim Moffitt||Chuck McGrady||Henderson|
|House 118||Mark Pless||Michele Presnell||Haywood, Madison, Yancey|
|House 119||Mike Clampitt||Joe Sam Queen||Haywood, Jackson, Swain|
|House 120||Karl Gillespie||Kevin Corbin||Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon|
|House 85||Dudley Greene||Josh Dobson||Avery, McDowell, Mitchell|
|House 93||Ray Pickett||Ray Russell||Ashe, Watauga|
|Senate 45||Deanna Ballard||Deanna Ballard||Alleghany, Ashe, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes|
|Senate 47||Ralph Hise||Ralph Hise||Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Yancey|
|Senate 48||Chuck Edwards||Chuck Edwards||Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania|
|Senate 49||Julie Mayfield||Terry Van Duyn||Buncombe|
|Senate 50||Kevin Corbin||Jim Davis||Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain|
MT Raleigh Report: Time To Vote Early & Planning For Our 2021 Agenda
Debates, town halls, early voting, campaign ads and voting rights lawsuits – the election season is at its height! So if you don’t have a plan for voting, now is the time to make one. This is a great week to participate in early in-person voting, which allows you to register or update your voter registration and vote at the same time. Remember that you can vote at any early voting site within your county during the early voting period, but must go to your assigned polling location if you vote on Election Day. You can find early voting sites within your county if you live in North Carolina here and if you live in Georgia here. For more information on early voting, visit MountainTrue’s 2020 voter information page.
While we all wait to see the results of the election, MountainTrue has already started our planning for the 2021 General Assembly. Earlier this month, we convened a half-day planning meeting to develop our first draft of ideas to protect Western North Carolina’s natural resources. We’ll spend the next few weeks refining these ideas, take in the results of the election and then finalize our legislative agenda in November.
Our goal is to spend December and January talking to legislators – and to members like you – to build support for our 2021 priorities so we can hit the ground running when the legislature begins its 2021 efforts in January. While our to-do list for next year is still being developed, look for proposals to keep our rivers and streams clean, to improve enforcement of water pollution rules and to fund new investments in paddle trails and public access to our most popular rivers and streams.
Thank you for supporting MountainTrue, and happy voting!