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Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster Celebrates 2022 Cleantech Innovation Award Winners

10 Nov 2022

The Fourth Annual Cleantech Innovation Awards celebrated the outstanding 2022 cleantech initiatives, projects, and innovations from companies, organizations, and government agencies that have contributed to the growing cleantech ecosystem in North Carolina. The Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster (RTCC), an initiative of business, government, academic and nonprofit leaders focused on accelerating the growth of the statewide and regional cleantech economy, honored award winners at a ceremony on November 9th at the SAS Institute in Cary, NC.

"We are thrilled to recognize the outstanding contributions of the cleantech community here in North Carolina," said Dr. Deb Wojcik, Executive Director of the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster. "Our cleantech economy is strong and growing, in the Research Triangle and across the state, evidenced by the four major companies that have been named for their important contributions to economic development."

The winners for each of the 2022 award categories are listed below:

Cleantech Champion of the Year – Recognizes an individual who exemplifies a deep commitment to advancing the cleantech industry in their local community, the Research Triangle region, or statewide. Achievements may include demonstrated dedication to cleantech innovation or adoption, business expansion or relocation, development of high-impact technology, or spearheading regional/cross-sectoral collaboration to drive innovation.

Paul Braese, North Carolina Department of Public Safety

As the Energy Manager for the NC Department of Public Safety, Paul oversees all utility consumption and leads initiatives for water and energy conservation. Paul has set the gold standard for advancing conservation and efficiency efforts in state government. Through his leadership, the state has reduced its energy and water consumption and is saving millions of dollars annually. Utilizing Electric Utility Credit and Opt-Out rebates, Paul has led an energy conservation program that has generated a cost avoidance of nearly $6M over four years, with all savings being reinvested into further efficiency efforts. Paul has saved hundreds of thousands of gallons of water through a leak identification and repair program, adding up to nearly $500,000 in recovered bill credits and $200,000 in annual cost avoidance. Throughout his efforts, Paul has hired and trained college interns and provided invaluable exposure to energy conservation efforts at NCDPS.

Cleantech Entrepreneur Award – Recognizes an individual who has demonstrated innovation through the development of new technology or advancing existing technology that has the potential to disrupt traditional industries, create a cleaner planet, and improve the quality of life for people here in North Carolina or around the world.

Daniel Kauffman, Enpira

Founded in 2017 by Daniel Kauffman, Enpira is a Durham, NC based software company providing utility data solutions to cities, counties, school districts, efficiency programs, and cooperative utilities across North Carolina and around the country. Enpira transforms utility data into actionable insights that enable clients to save energy, reduce peak demand, engage customers and stakeholders, and enhance community sustainability. Under Daniel's leadership, Enpira has partnered with organizations to help identify efficiency opportunities with the biggest impacts, show improvement, save staff time, and help manage facilities more efficiently.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Cleantech Award – Recognizes an organization or initiative that has demonstrated a strong commitment to building a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive cleantech economy. Examples may include deployments that focus specifically on the equitable availability of cleantech solutions, initiatives that address existing inequalities through new cleantech investments, targeted efforts to help underrepresented groups explore cleantech career opportunities, or inclusion-focused mentoring or networking initiatives.

PoleVolt is a new and innovative electric vehicle charging station pilot program in Charlotte, North Carolina created by a partnership among the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, City of Charlotte, Duke Energy, and Centralina Regional Council. The charging station uses existing streetlights—requiring minimal investment in infrastructure and construction—to provide curbside charging for electric vehicles (EVs). PoleVolt is expanding the availability of charging infrastructure for people who do not have access to dedicated off-street parking and is ADA accessible. 

Cleantech Research Innovation Award – Recognizes an individual or team pursuing a research-based solution to a pressing cleantech challenge, working toward commercialization of a research-based cleantech innovation, or spearheading a new collaboration between research and industry.

Judy Riffle and Sue Meacham, NALA Membranes

Dr. Judy Riffle and Dr. Sue Mecham, a mother-daughter team, founded NALA Membranes and have succeeded in developing a scalable manufacturing process for the development of a new class of membranes based on new polymers. NALA's membrane technology offers a unique solution to the problem of biofouling in reverse osmosis systems that will reduce energy, chemical cleaning, and downtime, plus extend membrane lifetimes to significantly reduce the lifecycle costs of the reverse osmosis systems, making them more sustainable and accessible. The NALA commercialization team is targeting the rapidly growing wastewater recycle and reuse market for early adopters. 

Cleantech Talent Development Award – Recognizes an organization or initiative that has made a significant contribution to developing talent, providing professional development, or fostering employment opportunities that support the cleantech industry in the region or state. Examples may include a corporate apprenticeship or internship program, a community college or university certificate in clean technologies, or a K-12 curriculum or outreach program.

Successful Training and Effective Industry Partnerships for Growing Regional Opportunities in Workforce to Harness (STEP4GROWTH), Center for Energy Research and Technology, NC A&T State University

The North Carolina A&T State University's STEPs4GROWTH project, funded by a $23.7 million American Rescue Plan Good Jobs Challenge, is an equitable workforce development project. STEPs4GROWTH will provide quality, demand-driven, hands-on training to students from high schools, community colleges, and universities in different areas of the clean energy sector. With a focus on equity, the program will use mobile training units in 16 economically distressed North Carolina counties to remove barriers to access and deliver training where workers are. Additionally, the project will serve as a national training model that will create a diverse talent pipeline to support the economy. More than 40 employers have committed to hiring 3,000 STEPs4GROWTH trainees over four years and an additional 1,500 trainees every year thereafter.

Cleantech Impact: Economic Development – Recognizes a cleantech organization that has accelerated economic growth in the region or state. Examples may include a cleantech business that has relocated to the region or state, an organization that has made a significant impact through the application of clean technologies, or an organization that has enabled cleantech economic growth. This year, RTCC recognizes four winners:

Southeastern Wind Coalition – The Southeastern Wind Coalition has been instrumental in supporting offshore wind in North Carolina. A highlight of the Southeastern Wind Coalition's efforts include advising the Governor's office on offshore wind, helping to shape a recent Offshore Wind Supply Chain study and advocating for the removal of the 10-year offshore wind moratorium included in the Inflation Reduction Act. The Southeast Wind Coalition also convenes southeast utilities to discuss wind opportunities and challenges and brings together stakeholders to gain support to move offshore wind forward.  

Toyota Battery Manufacturing NC – In December 2021, Toyota selected North Carolina to build its first North American battery plant, investing $1.29 billion and creating 1,750 jobs. Overall, the initial Toyota battery plant announcement was anticipated to bolster the state economy by $9.5 billion over 20 years. In August 2022, Toyota announced an additional investment of $2.5 billion along with an additional 350 jobs, bringing their total investment to $3.8 billion and 2,100 new jobs. With an expected operational date of 2025, Toyota's investment in North Carolina will position the state to better capture additional cleantech investments. 

VinFast – In March 2022, North Carolina was the recipient of outstanding economic development news, as VinFast announced it had selected North Carolina to build its $4 billion electric vehicle manufacturing plant. The project is expected to hire 7,500 employees and produce 150,000 vehicles per year. Additionally, VinFast's presence will help North Carolina bolster its electric vehicle supply chain, which will yield additional jobs and investments, furthering the state as a cleantech leader. VinFast expects to begin production of electric vehicles in July 2024.

Wolfspeed – In September 2022, Wolfspeed—whose headquarters is located in Durham, NC— announced a $5 billon investment to create a state-of-the-art Material manufacturing facility in North Carolina to produce Silicon Carbide wafers. The semiconductor facility, which is expected to come online in 2024, will employ 1,800 North Carolinians. While making this announcement, Governor Roy Cooper expressed his excitement that the Silicon Carbide wafers manufactured in NC will be used in electric vehicles and offshore wind. The connectedness of North Carolina's cleantech ecosystem got another boost with Wolfspeed's new investment, helping support the cleantech-focused supply chain in our state.

Cleantech Impact: Energy – Recognizes an energy project that applies cleantech to create positive impacts for the environment, economy, and residents. Examples may include innovations to existing grid infrastructure to enhance resiliency, renewable energy installations, microgrid deployments, or innovative energy efficiency programs.

North Carolina Electric Cooperative Development, FlexGen and North Carolina's Electric Cooperatives

FlexGen's installation of cutting-edge battery storage technology in 10 communities within North Carolina's Electric Cooperatives will provide 40 megawatts of power, which will be charged when demand for electricity is low and discharged during moments of peak demand, increasing reliability and providing cost savings to co-op members. FlexGen's HybridOS™ technology platform was developed in Durham, NC by a team of engineers to manage advanced energy storage systems and fast-response services. The integration software is hardware agnostic, allowing any energy storage system project to evolve as grid requirements change.

Cleantech Impact: Local Government – Recognizes a local government that has effectively leveraged resources and partnerships to complete an innovative project or initiative deploying cleantech solutions to create positive impacts for the environment, economy, and residents. Examples may include smart city technology deployments, collaborative stormwater management agreements, or cross-departmental teams addressing climate change or cleantech adoption or deployment.
Guaranteed Energy Savings Contract, Lexington City Schools

Lexington City Schools utilized the Guaranteed Energy Savings Contract statute to create over $5 million in guaranteed energy efficiency savings over the next 19 years, including projects such as replacing the chillers, cooling towers, and boilers at schools across their district. Dr. Anitra Wells, Superintendent of Lexington City Schools, had a vision to tie this district-wide project with their curriculum. A district-wide volt patrol program is being implemented as a behavioral reward for students that teaches them energy savings strategies that they can also take home to their families. Additionally, Schneider Electric provided a solar picnic table for the high school courtyard to help students charge their devices.

Cleantech Impact: Transportation – Recognizes a transportation or mobility project that uses innovative cleantech solutions to create positive impacts for the environment, economy, and residents. Native Electric, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Cherokee Boys Club

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) has shown exceptional leadership in pursuit of cleaner electrified transportation. In 2017, EBCI's Office of Natural Resources applied for and was awarded the first electric school bus in North Carolina, funded by the NC Department of Environmental Quality Division of Air Quality from VW Settlement funds. EBCI and Cherokee Boys Club were encouraged and decided to apply for a competitive EPA grant through the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) program. They were awarded funds to support four new electric school buses, which Duke Energy has supplemented with funds for equipment to charge the buses. In 2021, the EBCI Tribal Council ratified a target of 50% of vehicles being electric vehicles or hybrids. They have gone on to pursue 14 more electric school buses through EPA's Clean School Bus lottery program. They have also hosted a School Bus Drag Race to showcase the performance of their electric school bus in competition with a diesel school bus.

Cleantech Impact: Water – Recognizes a water, wastewater, or stormwater project that applies cleantech solutions to create positive impacts for the environment, economy, and residents.

Chatham Park Water Recovery Center, Chatham Park and Preston Development

The Chatham Park Water Recovery Center (CPWRC) combines state-of-the-art technology with biology, bringing together the most current advancements in the industry to create a functional facility rooted in sustainability. McKim & Creed evaluated and developed the unique approach to combine a sustainable treatment process that includes a 5-stage membrane biological reactor nutrient process followed by a greenhouse incorporating native plants. The membrane biological reactor process provides natural biological treatment, and microorganisms within the greenhouse are cultivated among plant roots to remove carbonaceous material, uptake nutrients, and break down waste without the use of chemicals.   

Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster | https://www.researchtrianglecleantech.org/