The Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster held the second-ever Cleantech Innovation Awards (virtual event) on December 9, 2020 at noon to recognize and honor the individuals and organizations driving cleantech innovation and deployment in our region. Nominations were open August 19 and closed on October 16.

Information about RTCC's 2019 Annual Meeting and Cleantech Innovation Awards, including award winners, can be found here



Cleantech Champion of the Year


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


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

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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

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Town of Cary 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


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


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

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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


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


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.



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Nominations were judged by a panel of cleantech experts and winners were announced at the Cleantech Innovation Awards on December 9. 



Presenting Sponsor




Wednesday, December 9, 2020
Noon - 1:30 PM (virtual event)

Free for RTCC Members
$25 for non-members

Speakers included:


Swati Daji

Duke Energy

Scarlett Harrod


Jeremy Tarr

NC Governor’s Office

Moderator – Paul Quinlan

ScottMadden, Inc.





Awards applications were accepted from August 19 to October 16. Nominations were judged by a panel of cleantech experts and winners were announced at the Cleantech Innovation Awards on December 9. A full list of nominees for each category can be found here.

Recognizing a local government or community which has completed an innovative project incorporating clean technology to create positive impacts for environment, economy, and residents.


City of Durham Smart Building Analytics

Wake Electric Eagle Chase Microgrid



Recognizing 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 existing cleantech employer that has expanded, or an organization that has enabled such economic growth.


Garner Economic Development
Project Axis - Amazon RDU1 Honeywell Global Headquarters Charlotte, NC



Recognizing a program or initiative that supports or develops people entering the cleantech industry. Examples may include a corporate apprenticeship program, a community college certificate in clean technologies, K12 curriculum, etc.


Community Engagement and STEM Education Program (CE-STEM) Energy Literacy, Engagement and Action Program 



Recognizing an organization or initiative that has made significant contributions to ensuring the cleantech workforce reflects the people it serves. Examples may include targeted efforts to expose underrepresented groups to cleantech career opportunities, corporate programs to hire and support underrepresented employees, mentoring or networking initiatives, etc.


City of Charlotte Renewable Energy and Efficiency Workforce (RENEW) Training Program  The Climate Service DEI Council, Training Program and Hiring Process



Recognizing an electric utility or grid project that uses innovative cleantech solutions to create positive impacts for environment, economy, and residents.


Power Resource Group Carolina Poultry Power Project - Farmville Roanoke Electric Cooperative Upgrade To $ave/Community Solar Program 



Recognizing a water or wastewater project that uses innovative cleantech solutions to create positive impacts for environment, economy, and residents.


City of Gastonia/Two Rivers Utilities Water Treatment Plant Upgrade Phase I Town of Cary Floodwater Prediction and Monitoring System



Recognizing a transportation or mobility project that uses innovative cleantech solutions to create positive impacts for environment, economy, and residents.


City of Charlotte Fleet Policies City of Raleigh EVSE Suitability Analysis Mapping Tool



Recognizing an individual who exemplifies commitment to supporting the cleantech industry. Achievements may include an outstanding commitment to sustainability, business expansion or relocation, development of high-impact technology, or spearheading regional/cross-sector collaboration to drive innovation.

The Cleantech Champion will be announced at the awards ceremony on December 9.




Recognizing 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.

The Cleantech Entrepreneur will be announced at the awards ceremony on December 9.



See prospectus below for sponsorship opportunities. Contact Emmit Owens for more information.