USNWC's solar installation is for the community | CLT Blog
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USNWC’s solar installation is for the community

Posted on 1 May 2009 by Rhi Bowman

It’s true. Though the Whitewater Center is excited about their new gift and interested in being eco-friendly — and the cost savings they’ll realize — they’re hoping today’s installation of solar film on the roof of the complex’s main building will allow them to spark community interest in green living and help citizens better understand the benefits of solar energy.

Soon, a state-of-the-art monitoring system will feed real-time statistics — like kWh generated, the number of trees and barrels of oil saved, and pounds of carbon offset — to a touch screen monitor in the USNWC lobby. Visitors of all ages are encouraged to poke around the easy-to-use interface.

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All of the materials for the project were donated from local and national companies, like BestBuy, Kesco Electric and Wilmington’s Winlectric Company. Who’s providing the labor? Most of the men on the roof today are executives from those same companies, according to Kelli McCallum, a spokeswoman for Cyclone Roofing.

Solar film is quite different from solar panels. It’s thin, flexible, durable (think thin rubber car mats) and — most importantly — captures the full spectrum of light. According to Tim Munson, from Cyclone Roofing, he’s tested the film under florescent lights and even moon light. Both produced electricity.

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The film is guaranteed for 20 years, but Munson says it will last 30. It’s easy to maintain (a garden hose or rain will keep it clean) and difficult to damage. The cost of installing the film versus traditional glass and metal solar panels is roughly the same: the film is currently more expensive but easier to install (thus a lower installation fee). It uses low light technology and produces more electricity per watt than any other systems currently on the market.

Whitewater staff say they can’t wait to show off the new system and that they hope, eventually, the entire USNWC system — which requires massive amounts of electricity — will be off the grid, though that’s a long way down the road. For today, throwing the switch on the new solar film system will make an immediate difference in the center’s energy bill and will begin to offset its impact on Charlotte’s environment.

The official unveiling will be at a May 21 ribbon cutting ceremony. Several members of the Charlotte City Council and Mayor McCrory are expected to attend.

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