NCSEA member post by Rebecca Morris, Director of Marketing, Pisgah Energy

In 2019, Pisgah Energy was founded by industry veteran, Evan Becka, because he strongly felt that the commercial and industrial solar market was under-served and saw a real need for expertise in developing on-site solar and energy storage projects for schools, government, and businesses.

As with many things, timing is everything; while Evan was on the verge of launching Pisgah Energy, Buncombe County and the City of Asheville were seeking a consultant to help them fulfill their commitment to running government operations on 100% renewable energy by 2030. Over the years, Evan has built a positive working relationship with the city and county and because of this established trust, both agencies brought Pisgah Energy on board to handle all of the design and analysis necessary to select the most suitable sites for potential solar projects.  We were off and running!

Working closely with Buncombe County Sustainability Officer, Jeremiah LeRoy, City of Asheville Energy Program Coordinator, Bridget Herring, as well as representatives from Buncombe County Schools, Asheville City Schools and A-B Tech, our design/development team completed site assessments, energy analyses, preliminary designs and feasibility studies for over 50 potential solar projects with a capacity totaling over 8 MWs.

This preliminary work allowed each organization to review and assess each project on their overall merit and financial feasibility, making it possible to move to the next step – releasing an RFP for construction services to build the projects. Prior to its release, to ensure that these public bid proposals could be evaluated on an apples-to-apples comparison, we specified the equipment to be used and partnered with Optima Engineering to provide construction drawings and specifications for the RFP.

In October 2019, Buncombe County Government, City of Asheville, Asheville City Schools, Buncombe County Schools, and A-B Technical Community College joined in a historic request for proposals (RFP) to install 7MWDC of solar PV arrays at 47 public facilities across the county.

Despite a short delay due to COVID-19 and subsequent stay-at-home orders, both the city and county made the decision to continue advancing these projects – requiring some creativity on our part to make sure bidders had access to the key information for each facility. During the RFP bidding period, which lasted 11 weeks, we were responsible for issuing project addendums and answering all technical questions from bidders about the projects.

Ultimately, Asheville-based MB Haynes was selected as the EPC and in July, both the Buncombe County Commissioners and Asheville City Council voted unanimously to advance their first round of solar projects into the construction phase.

Each solar project was designed to meet the unique requirements of the corresponding facility while addressing the needs and concerns of each individual organization. The entire portfolio is comprised of rooftop mounted, ground mounted, and canopy systems that will generate ~9,787 MWh in the first year, producing enough energy to meet 47% of the combined electricity needs of these facilities.

As the projects move forward into construction, Pisgah Energy will continue to serve in a project management capacity, allowing for the seamless transition from concept through construction.

After nearly a year living, breathing, and working as the technical consultant for the design and development of these projects it’s very gratifying to see them moving forward.  We’re proud to be part of the work our local government is doing to address climate change, knowing that every step taken toward 100% renewable energy will have a real impact on the health and energy security of our Western North Carolina community.

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