RALEIGH  – The winners of the Second Annual Cleantech Innovation Awards include outstanding 2020 initiatives, projects, and other contributions 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, presented the awards in a virtual ceremony held on December 9th in conjunction with the RTCC annual meeting.
We congratulate all of our 2020 Cleantech Innovation Awards winners, as well as all the finalists and nominees. We were proud to have so many innovative and exciting projects, companies, and individuals to showcase with this annual award program.
The winners for each of the 2020 award categories are listed below:
  • Cleantech Champion of the Year – Recognizes an individual who exemplifies commitment to supporting the cleantech industry, including an outstanding commitment to sustainability, business expansion or relocation, development of high-impact technology, or spearheading regional/cross-sector collaboration to drive innovation.
Mike Burnette, NCEMC, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
A 33-year employee of the North Carolina Electric Cooperatives, currently in the role of COO, Mike’s fundamental goal has been to improve the quality of life in the rural North Carolina communities that cooperatives serve, supporting them in a variety of ways, including helping cooperatives provide affordable and reliable electricity. Some of the that Mike has championed innovative and sustainable cooperative projects, including 18 community solar projects; the development of several microgrids tying sustainable resources with energy storage and innovative control technologies; and the cooperatives’ EV charging network throughout the state to support the adoption of electric vehicles. Mike also helped form the cooperatives’ Brighter Future vision, with a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 while also upholding a commitment to reliable and affordable electricity.
  • Cleantech Entrepreneur Award – Recognizes an individual who has created innovation with the potential to disrupt traditional industries, create a cleaner planet, and improve the quality of life for people around the world.
Ryan Kennedy, Atom Power, CEO
The team at Atom Power created the first and only solid-state circuit breaker certified for commercial use by UL, employing a switch 3000 times faster than any mechanical breaker and virtually eliminating the risk of arc flashes or explosions. A former commercial electrician turned electrical engineer, Ryan Kennedy witnessed the dangers of electrical infrastructure and was motivated to build something better. He founded Atom Power at UNC Charlotte, and the company today manufactures 95% of the components for the Atom Switch within 200 miles of Charlotte and employs 26 people in Charlotte. In June, Atom Power raised $17.8 million in a Series B round to develop the next generation digital circuit breaker, scale its intelligent power management platform, and address the world’s most pressing power distribution challenges, such as integrating renewables into the grid, building more efficient data centers, and supporting other sustainable energy initiatives.
  • Diversity in Cleantech Award – Recognizes an organization or initiative for significant contributions to ensuring the cleantech workforce reflects all the people it serves, including efforts to expose underrepresented groups to cleantech career opportunities, and corporate efforts to hire and support underrepresented employees through mentoring and networking initiatives.
City of Charlotte – Renewable Energy & Efficiency Workforce (RENEW) Training Program
The RENEW Training Program is a partnership between Charlotte and the Urban League of the Carolinas. Participants receive heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) industry-certified credentials required for entry-level technician positions for careers in commercial and residential energy, including renewable energy and energy efficiency. Graduates from the program have access to career opportunities with industries leaders such as Trane Technologies and others in the field.
  • Water Innovation Award – Recognizes a water or wastewater project that uses innovative cleantech solutions to create a positive impact for the environment, economy, and residents of NC.
Town of Cary’s Floodwater Prediction & Monitoring System
Cary’s floodwater prediction and monitoring system provides real-time alerting and visualization of rising storm water levels to enable automated operational response, citizen notification, and data sharing with regional partners, as well as analysis and prediction of future events. The town can better identify anomalies, such as rising water, through the integration of weather forecasting data and real-time stream and facility sensor data measuring water and rain levels to deliver advanced warnings of flood threats.
  • Cleantech Community Award – Recognizes a local government or community which has completed an innovative project incorporating clean technology to create a positive impact for the environment, economy, and its residents.
Wake Electric Eagle Chase Microgrid
Wake Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) recognized the mass sprawl in the Northern Wake County area, including the addition of 60 subdivisions in the past three years, which is extremely rare in rural electric territories. This growth provided the opportunity for Wake EMC and their partners to develop a resilient community microgrid to the residents of the Eagle Chase subdivision – which includes both clean and traditional generation to increase resiliency, sustainability, and generate economic benefits to the utility and community residents.
  • Grid Innovation Award – Recognizes an electric utility or grid project that uses innovative cleantech solutions to create a positive impact for the environment, economy, and residents of NC.
Power Resource Group (PRG) Carolina Poultry Power (CPP) – Farmville
PRG designed, funded, built, owns, and operates the CPP project in Farmville, which annually uses 70,000 tons of poultry litter to generate nearly 2MW of clean renewable electricity and the equivalent of 12MW of thermal power to assist the operations of a small utility and nearby industry. The project brought $32M in investment into rural North Carolina, created 20 direct and 30 indirect jobs, and established a template for how industrial-, as opposed to utility-scale, projects can work with smaller rural electrical utilities to provide baseline, 24/7 power without the typical drawbacks of intermittent renewable energy sources. The project has provided a solid foundation for the construction of two more poultry projects – including one starting in Q1 2021 – and a pipeline of blended fuel projects with hard-to-utilize waste streams.
  • Cleantech Impact Award – Recognizes a cleantech organization that has accelerated economic growth in the region or state, including a cleantech business relocating to NC, an existing cleantech business expanding, or an organization that has enabled economic growth.
Project Axis ­– Amazon RDU1
In 2009, after a devastating industrial accident, ConAgra Foods shuttered their plant in Garner. The Garner Economic Development Corporation (GEDC) worked for years to market the property for redevelopment and to replace the 440 jobs and $55 million of tax base that was lost when the plant closed. The Project Axis – Amazon RDU1 initiative resulted in the redevelopment of the former ConAgra Foods Plant, a 98-acre brownfield site, in to a 2.6 million square foot Amazon fulfillment center that will employ thousands.
  • Cleantech Talent Initiative – Recognizes a program or initiative that supports or provides career development for people entering the cleantech industry, including corporate apprenticeship programs, community college cleantech certification programs, or K–12 cleantech curriculum.
US EPA Community Engagement & STEM Education Program (CE-STEM)
The CE-STEM program communicates EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment to students, educators, and the public through interactive programs in schools, community events, on the EPA-RTP campus and, since March 2020, through virtual programming. Cleantech is embodied in CE-STEM, particularly in three of its education focus areas: 1) Clean Energy using the EPA-developed game, GENERATE: The Game of Energy Choices, 2) Ecosystem Services using EPA’s EnviroAtlas tools to communicate the health benefits provided by ecosystems, and 3) Sustainability through Speaker Bureau presentations and sustainability tours of the EPA-RTP campus.
  • Transportation Innovation Award – Recognizes a transportation or mobility project that uses innovative cleantech solutions to create a positive impact for the environment, economy, and residents of NC.
City of Raleigh EVSE Sustainability Analysis Mapping Tool
Raleigh created a GIS-based tool that identifies the most suitable, priority locations for publicly available Level 2 EV charging stations in the city to serve the community. The suitability of an area is based on criteria such as EV driver behavior, location convenience, charger utilization, economic development opportunities, environmental justice, and equity. The project was inspired by and designed to be a tool to support the city’s Transportation Electrification Study.
The Cleantech Innovation Awards were presented during RTCC’s 2020 annual meeting, held virtually on Wednesday, December 9th from noon to 1:30pm. In addition to the awards, a panel featuring executives from North Carolina addressed the growing decarbonization effort taking place in businesses and governments across the globe:
  • Swati Daji, Senior Vice-President for Customer Solutions, Duke Energy
  • Scarlett Harrod, Industry & Account Manager, ABB
  • Jeremy Tarr, Senior Advisor for Climate Change Policy, NC Governor’s Office
  • Moderator – Paul Quinlan, CleanTech Manager, ScottMadden, Inc.