Cape Fear
Green Building Alliance


  • 10 May 2012 3:52 PM | Nick Lauretta (Administrator)
    Last night the CFGBA hosted Lyle Estill from Piedmont Biofuels at our monthly membership meeting. It was a stormy night in the Port City and the folks that showed up, dripping and out of breath from running to the Balcony, were treated to an enthusiastic and informative talk from Mr. Estill. The talk began with a quick presentation on the evolution of Piedmont Biofuels from a 10 gallon garage-based experiment to a million gallon refinery located in Carborro, NC.

    It was interesting to hear about the different types of structures that were built to keep the biodiesel warm, from a straw and mud hut to a solar passive straw bale enclosure to the latest "recycled" building opening up at Tidal Creek this month. Mr. Estill describe his run-in with building inspectors and fire marshals. It was funny to hear him explain his arguments with these regulators that there is no place in  the building code that says he cannot build a straw bale enclosure around a biodiesel storage tank. 

    Mr. Estill also provided some great insight on what diesel owners may encounter if they plan to use biodiesel in their cars including things like cutting the 100% biodiesel with some petroleum diesel during the coldest time of year, the cleansing effect of biodiesel and the need to carry an extra fuel filter right after the switch and the need to replace natural rubber fuel system components in your pre-1994 engines before using biodiesel. We also got some insight into what is used to make the biodiesel; beginning with his use of virgin soybean oil to animal waste fat to waste oil from restaurants, which is what they are using now. That is why those Jettas smell like french fries! All and all the discussion was interesting and enlightening, but it got better as we ventured into the subject of the local economy and discussed Lyle's books, including his latest, Industrial Evolution.

    Mr. Estill's books discuss the evolution of their biodiesel enterprise and the group of people that developed a local based economy that even functions with it's own currency, the Plenty ( This was not a new concept to me as I encountered the same ideas in Flagstaff, Arizona in college and the use of the Flagstaff Friendly. What struck me as a really important concept was Mr. Estill's discussion of the health of the local economy based on the number of times a dollar is spent before it leaves town. Most of the time I purchase something I don't think if that dollar will get spent again in Wilmington or if goes to China or Wall Street never to be seen again. The Plenty, as with the dollar, is based on trust, but the Plenty can never leave town. As long as someone is willing to pour a beer, fix a car, provide food or biodiesel for a Plenty, then the local economy thrives.

    This concept and others based on supporting the local economy is what the CFGBA is all about. Although we have members that may not be completely local, we support our local Wilmington organizations and reach out to the community to promote those businesses and individuals that will spend the dollar you pay them for their services here in Wilmington over and over again. We use the dollar but work towards providing plenty for all here in Wilmington.
  • 25 Feb 2012 2:24 PM | Deleted user
    Thursday's Stewardship Development Awards and a  tour of environmentally friendly public buildings made a very favorable impression on Roya Stanley of  the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Stanley, who is the director of the DOE's Weatherization and Intergovernmental Policy Team, was the keynote speaker at the awards luncheon. After the luncheon, Stanley toured four facilities that illustrate our local governments' commitment to sustainable building.

    A hybrid bus from WAVE Transit transported Stanley and a small entourage  to the four sites. The tour began at WAVE Transit's Forden Station, where the transit authority's executive director Albert Eby conducted a walk-through and identified the site's extensive examples of green building practices. Built according to LEED Gold standards, Forden Station boasts a geothermal heating and cooling system, and a green roof. Energy efficient features include LED lighting controlled by motion sensors, timers and dimmers, louvered sunshades and solar glass windows. 

    The second stop was Snipes Academy of Art and Design.The building's architect Thomas Hughes acted as tour guide with assistance from the school's principal Laura Jennings and Eric Allen, project manager in the facilities and construction department of New Hanover County Schools.  One of Snipes most outstanding features is that the green strategies employed in the building and grounds function as teaching aids for the students, who are learning to be good environmental stewards. For example, a touch screen monitor in the lobby features an interactive dashboard that displays real-time energy usage and efficiencies. This information is shared through the school's computer network, making it accessible in every classroom, so that energy data can be incorporated in the curricula. Built to achieve LEED Silver certification, Snipes received an "outstanding recognition" at Thursday's program.

    The Wilmington Convention Center also earned "outstanding recognition" and was the third destination of the tour. Mayor Bill Saffo joined the group at the convention center and accompanied the tour conducted by Sue Eaton, the facility's general manager. The convention center is a LEED Silver certified building.

    Last, but not least, the group visited the City of Wilmington's Street Sweeper Facility,where they were greeted by Dave Mayes, stormwater services manager for the City of Wilmington and two of the facility's architects.  The building was designed to obtain net zero energy consumption, using solar panels to generate electricity and to heat water for the radiant floor heating system. 

    At the end of the day, Stanley said. "I'm very impressed."  CFGBA's executive director Joy Allen asked if she could quote her and Stanley responded with an emphatic "yes."  Coming from someone who has a 30 year career in the energy efficiency and renewable fields, this certainly is a high compliment.
  • 22 Feb 2012 7:21 PM | Deleted user
    A high-ranking official of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will tour several of Wilmington’s energy efficient and environmentally friendly public buildings on Thursday, February 23. Roya Stanley, director of the Policy and Technical Assistance team in the Weatherization and Intergovernmental Program at the DOE will visit Snipes Academy of Arts and Design, WAVE Transit’s Forden Station, the Wilmington Convention Center and the City of Wilmington’s Street Sweeper Facility. The tour is being held in conjunction with the Seventh Annual Lower Cape Fear Stewardship Development Awards, where Stanley will deliver the keynote address.

    The Cape Fear Green Building Alliance organized the 2-hour tour and invited media representatives and local elected officials to participate. A chartered WAVE Transit bus will transport Stanley and guests to the featured sites, where knowledgeable guides will conduct tours of the buildings and grounds. Mayor Bill Saffo will join the tour at the Wilmington Convention Center. 
  • 10 Feb 2012 9:41 AM | Deleted user
    If you can't  afford the upfront costs of energy efficiency home improvements, help is here - that is, if you're a customer of Brunswick Electric Membership Cooperative (BEMC).  The rest of us will just have to remain green with envy.  

    For years, stakeholders in the retrofit industry have insisted that mass adoption of  home energy efficiency upgrades would not occur unless homeowners had access to innovative financing options. It so happens that BEMC has been an innovator in this area for years - since 1989 to be exact. As of December 2011, the electric cooperative had loaned approximately $7.8 million for energy efficiency projects in existing homes.

    BEMC will loan eligible homeowners up to $6,000 for retrofit or weatherization projects at a 5% interest rate. Repayment of the loans is usually spread out over five years. What's more, borrowers make their monthly loan payments as part of their utility bill. Reductions in energy use should offset some portion of the loan payment.  It doesn't get much easier than that! On second thought, "Oh, yes it does." BEMC processes loan applications quickly - often within 24 hours.

    Loan applicants will need to provide a cost estimate for the project and they must contact BEMC before work begins. After submitting the loan application and obtaining approval, the homeowner can then hire a contractor and  start the project. When the job is complete, the borrower signs a promissory note and BEMC writes a check to the contractor.

    Some of the residential projects for which financing is available are: new heat pumps with a minimum 15 SEER rating, new solar or electric water heaters, replacement windows, mobile home "roofovers", and insulation for walls, ceilings, floors and ductwork. Weather stripping, caulking, and storm windows and doors also qualify for the program.

    A year ago, BEMC launched a similar program for businesses and churches. The cooperative's commercial customers can apply for loans up to $10,000. Commercial loans are available for renewable energy projects, as well as energy efficiency. More information about both types of loans is available on the BEMC Web site or by calling  910-754-4391.
  • 23 Dec 2011 11:35 AM | Deleted user
    If Santa Claus not only was real, but he also granted Christmas wishes to communities, here's what I'd ask for:

    1) Widespread adoption of the Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum by real estate appraisers, so that green features add monetary value to homes.

    2) A home's energy savings become a factor in the mortgage underwriting process, thanks to Congress passing The SAVE Act (Sensible Accounting to Value Energy).

    3) Greening of the local Multiple Listing Service.

    4) Performance based tax incentives for retrofitting existing homes to make them more energy efficient (Cut Energy Bills at Home Act  aka 25-E).

    5) National standards for retrofitting to ensure quality work.

    6) Nationwide implementation of the Home Energy Score Card to certify energy efficiency retrofits. 

    7) PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) loan programs are allowed to move forward and help homeowners finance energy efficiency improvements. 

    8) Skyrocketing demand for new energy efficient and green homes, as well as for retrofits of existing homes. 

    Last, but not least, the culmination of all the other wishes: Members of the local green building industry have a prosperous New Year.
  • 15 Dec 2011 3:31 PM | Deleted user
    Efficiency First recently hosted a Webinar about the Cut Energy Bills at Home Act, during which panelists discussed the bill's economic and environmental impacts.

    An estimated 1 million homes would be retrofitted from 2012-2016, according to Steve Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEE). Nadel also projected that the incentivized market would create an average of 19,000 jobs per year. The retrofitted homes would realize average energy savings of 25%, qualifying homeowners for a $2500 tax credit. As a result, the cost to the U.S. Treasury would equal approximately $2 billion for the five-year duration of the tax credits.

    Nadel estimates that each retrofitted home will save an average of 1,692 kWh per year. At that rate by 2016, total annual savings nationwide will reach 1.7 billion kWh and 18 trillion Btu of fuel. That is equivalent to the energy use of 375,000 homes. 

    The EPA's eGrid estimates that power generation emits an average of 1.036 lbs of CO2 per kWh. Using this multiplier, we can calculate emission reductions of 2.22 billion lbs as a result of the tax incentives proposed in the Cut Energy Bills at Home Act.

    The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) supports the Cut Energy Bills at Home Act, also known as 25-E. The NRDC has been a long-time advocate for performance-based energy efficiency tax credits, such as those prescribed by 25-E. 25-E aims to incentivize whole house retrofits that would produce substantial energy savings and quickly reduce the environmental impacts of energy use.

  • 05 Dec 2011 12:12 PM | Deleted user
    Last Wednesday, November 30, crews broke ground on a housing development for senior citizens that will feature 75 ENERGY STAR certified units. The City of Wilmington, Carlisle Development Group and the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency (NCHFA) formed a strategic partnership to build Lake Ridge Commons, which will provide affordable housing for seniors whose incomes are 60 percent or less than the Area Median Income (AMI). 

    The City of Wilmington has pledged $650,000 to the project from HOME funds, a federal block grant provided to state and local governments for the sole purpose of creating affordable housing for low-income households. The lion's share of the project's funding, $8 million, comes from the private sector.  Slated for completion at the end of 2012, the project will create an estimated 114 local jobs. 

    Given the nature and number of its upsides, the three-story building promises to stand as a monument to the triple bottom line. Meanwhile, our city has again shown us that it is serious about sustainability. 
  • 02 Dec 2011 4:06 PM | Deleted user
    About a month ago, the City of Wilmington received a praise-worthy award that appears to have slipped under the radar of local media.  As a result, most of our readers probably remain unaware that Wilmington was one of only two cities to be honored by the North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM) with the Susan M. Burgess Sustainability Award. NCLM presents the Sustainability Award annually to recognize cities for their efforts to conserve energy and natural resources. 

    Our city has made a major commitment to sustainability. Several city facilities have received energy efficiency and water conservation upgrades. Our one-year-old convention center is a LEED certified building. The city's fleet has improved its fuel efficiency by "right sizing" vehicles and including hybrids. Revised trash collection routes also have reduced fuel consumption. Solar panels were added to the Fleet facility located on River Road and Thalian Hall got a new energy efficient roof. The Street Sweeper Facility on 17th Street incorporates a number of green features including radiant floor heating, solar panels and rain gardens for storm water management. In addition, the city has now completed 11 miles of the pedestrian and bike friendly Cross City Trail.

    Individually, each of these initiatives gives us a reason to be proud of our city. Together, they have made Wilmington a front-runner for sustainability in our state. Let's shout it from the rooftops!
  • 30 Nov 2011 5:03 PM | Deleted user

    If the last blog post piqued your interest about the Cut Energy Bills at Home Act, also known as 25E, you can learn  a lot more next week by participating in a free Webinar.  Hosted by Efficiency First, "Introducing 25E: The First Performance-Based Tax Credit for Homes"  takes place on Tuesday, December 6 at 4:00 p.m. Panelists will discuss the Senate bill's basic components and how proponents can help it advance through the legislative process. The Webinar is free and you can register on Efficiency First's Web site.

    Efficiency First is a non-profit trade association for the energy efficiency retrofit industry. The group's Web site also provides a wealth of information about policy initiatives and best practices for the industry. They have created a Web page and fact sheet dedicated to 25E, and are soliciting questions from the public to be answered in an ongoing FAQ. The Efficiency First Web site is the place to go for news about the residential retrofit industry, unless, of course, we happen to get the word out to you first.
  • 28 Nov 2011 12:02 PM | Deleted user

    The energy efficiency retrofit industry may soon receive a long-awaited and much needed boost. On November 18, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduced a new bill, which would create performance based tax credits for retrofits. The Cut Energy Costs at Home Act would reward homeowners for implementing improvements resulting in at least a 20% reduction in energy consumption. If passed, the legislation would provide federal tax credits from $2000 to $5,000, up to 30% of the retrofit costs. 

    Senators Jeff Bingham (D-NM), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the Cut Energy Costs at Home Act, which proposes a totally new approach to tax  incentives for home retrofits. The 25E tax credit would reward measurable results as opposed to installation of specific types of equipment. 

    By encouraging whole house energy improvements instead of the piecemeal measures supported by previous tax credits, 25E has greater potential to stimulate the home performance industry. The proposed tax credits would substantially reduce retrofit costs for the homeowner, thereby removing one of the primary obstacles that has thwarted market growth. 

    By promoting tangible outcomes, 25E also could help raise the bar for the home performance industry. In turn, this should inspire homeowner confidence. It stands to reason that homeowners would be much more likely to contract for retrofit services if they could dependably calculate the resulting savings on utility bills. 

    A  surge in demand for energy efficiency home improvements could go a long way towards putting unemployed construction workers back to work.  25E could be the jolt  that finally awakens the sleeping giant of economic recovery, the residential retrofit industry.

    At the same time, by tying the credits to actual reductions in energy use, 25E would provide the federal government with a more aggressive and effective tool for achieving its climate change goals. In short, this is a win-win piece of legislation.

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