Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster Celebrates 2023 Cleantech Innovation Award Winners
The 2023 Cleantech Innovation Awards, presented by the RTCC at a ceremony last Thursday, included recognition for leading entrepreneurs, innovators, and top cleantech projects from across North Carolina
RALEIGH, N.C. (November 21, 2023) – The winners of the 2023 Cleantech Innovation Awards, including outstanding cleantech projects, innovations, organizations, and individuals, were recognized at an awards ceremony held on November 16th at the SAS Institute in Cary. Winners were honored by 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.
This year’s Platinum Sponsor was PowerSecure, the leading supplier of microgrids in the United States, and the Host Sponsor was the SAS Institute, a global leader in AI and analytics software.
“Our Cleantech Innovation Awards celebrate the incredible contributions and successful growth of the cleantech sector in North Carolina, represented by our outstanding award winners, finalists, and nominees,” said Dr. Deb Wojcik, Executive Director of the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster. “We are thrilled to recognize the many teams, companies, start-ups, academic institutions, and government agencies doing the work to innovate and deploy cleantech solutions and grow our cleantech economy in North Carolina and beyond.”
The winners for each of the 2023 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.
Jennifer Weiss, North Carolina Clean Energy Fund Co-Director
Jen Weiss has long envisioned the role a green bank could play for the state’s cleantech economy, which she realized by founding the North Carolina Clean Energy Fund to bring investments in clean, efficient energy and transportation projects, with a focus on underserved communities. Her skills include bringing together stakeholders, partners, and diverse voices to nurture collaboration across the NC cleantech ecosystem, such as her support for the Women in Cleantech Energy (WiCE).
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.
John Crawford, Ndustrial Co-Founder and CTO
Since co-founding Ndustrial in 2014, John Crawford has worked to reshape the way industrial companies think about energy management, developing an innovative energy platform that integrates more than 60 different systems into a single normalized view that processes more than 100 million data points to enable smarter energy decisions in real time. Thanks to John’s work, Ndustrial was recently named as one of the Top 100 energy transition startups in the world.
Cleantech Research Innovation Award – Recognizes an individual or team from industry or within an institution of higher learning that is 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.
Dr. Mike Muglia, Assistant Director for the NC Renewable Ocean Energy Program (NCROEP)
Dr. Muglia is a renowned expert in marine energy resources and has been instrumental in advancing marine energy research and energy development for North Carolina’s blue economy. His unique understanding of complex ocean systems has proven critical for advancing underwater energy-harvesting kites to harness ocean current resources. Dr. Muglia has been a leading voice in championing commercialization of marine energy solutions with NCROEP and the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI).
Diversity in Cleantech Award – Recognizes an organization or initiative that has made significant contributions to ensuring the cleantech workforce reflects the people it serves, pursues organizational approaches that are inclusive of a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives, or actively supports employees’ sense of belonging within the organization.
NC Clean Energy Technology Center – NIST-RACER: Building Pandemic Resilience in Native American Communities
NC Clean Energy Technology Center has spearheaded the effort to recruit and train participants in solar energy training courses in an effort to better prepare Native American communities for future economic disasters and medical emergencies, such as what happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, as a sub-recipient of PowerAmerica’s “Building Pandemic Resilience in Native American Communities” NIST grant. Over the past year, the Clean Tech Center has engaged with tribal colleges and universities, minority-serving institutions, and other partners to enroll participants in Fundamentals of Solar and Solar Storage courses to provide technical training across the United States. The Clean Tech Center has trained more than 70 participants to date and will be hosting additional courses in February and March of next year.
Equity in Cleantech Award – Recognizes an organization or initiative that has demonstrated a strong commitment to equity in the implementation of a cleantech project.
City of Durham Bull E-Bike Pilot
The Bull E-Bike Pilot was an equity-based e-bike share program designed for and by transportation disadvantaged and low-income workers of downtown Durham. The Pilot was the first e-bike share program that gave voice to address the transportation needs of shift workers. The program’s goal was to increase mobility and foster the independence of workers significantly impacted by transportation disadvantages and other societal impacts related to inequities by using e-bikes as a reliable and sustainable way to travel across Durham.
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.
EPA-RTP’s Community Engagement & STEM Education Program (CE-STEM) Summer Science Institute
EPA-RTP’s Summer Science Institute is a free, five-day program that uses interactive activities, lab tours, job shadowing, and speed mentoring to expose local high school students to current and emerging environmental challenges as well as career opportunities in a range of fields including air, water, energy, transportation, climate, and sustainability. Students from underserved communities receive applications first and three slots are held for students from N.C. State University’s Catalyst Program, which creates STEM opportunities for students with disabilities. The 2023 Institute hosted 28 students from 19 N.C. schools, and a 2013 Institute graduate spoke to participants about how the program inspired her to pursue a position as the Climate Policy Advisor for the N.C. Governor.
Cleantech Impact: Energy – Recognizes an energy project that applies cleantech to create positive impacts for the environment, economy, and residents.
Duke Energy – Hot Springs Microgrid (Madison County)
Duke Energy’s Hot Springs Microgrid is one of the most advanced microgrids in the nation, with 2MW of solar and a 4.4MW lithium battery storage system that is capable of disconnecting from the main electric system to power the entire 500-person town of Hot Springs as an “island.” This is the first microgrid approved by the North Carolina Utilities Commission, designed to deliver cost-effective and reliable electric power to the remote mountain town previously prone to outages. Duke Energy employed technology company Wärtsilä’s GEMS Digital Energy Platform for integrated control of the solar and energy storage facilities.
Cleantech Impact: Water – Recognizes a water, wastewater, or stormwater project that applies cleantech solutions to create positive impacts for the environment, economy, and residents.
City of Raleigh – Raleigh Water’s Sever Main Failure Prediction Analysis
Raleigh Water recently partnered with North Carolina State University Advanced Analytics graduate students to create a predictive model using machine learning. The project focused on enabling Raleigh Water to pinpoint failing sewer gravity mains for Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) inspections. The project produced results with 87-percent accuracy, allowing Raleigh Water to significantly reduce environmental impacts and become more efficient and proactive in repair work of more than 2,600 miles of pipe.
Cleantech Impact: Local Government – Recognizes a local government or governments that have 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.
Solarize the Triangle – Central Pines Regional Council
Solarize the Triangle is a regional, community-based group-purchasing program for solar energy, battery storage, and other clean energy technologies that helps homeowners, businesses and nonprofits become more resilient, reduce energy expenses, and save on the cost of renewable energy systems by obtaining volume discounts on materials and installation services. This project is a partnership among a group of 12 local governments including the City of Raleigh, the Town of Morrisville, Durham County, the Town of Hillsborough, the Town of Apex, the City of Durham, Orange County, the Town of Cary, Chatham County, the Town of Chapel Hill, the Town of Carrboro, and the Town of Holly Springs, a regional government, Central Pines Regional Council; and two private sector partners, Solar Crowdsource and Yes Solar Solutions. This partnership gives customers the assurance of local government and private sector know-how, group pricing, and clean energy education and outreach events to increase participation through a better understanding of rooftop solar components, suitability assessment considerations, and contract provisions. Over the course of two campaigns, Solarize the Triangle has signed 291 contracts for solar installation, which represents almost $488,000 in yearly avoided energy costs, $9.75M in new clean energy development, and more than five million pounds of carbon dioxide avoided annually, while kick-starting a grant program to put solar PV systems on the roofs of low- to moderate-income homeowners.
Cleantech Impact: Economic Development – Recognizes a cleantech organization that has accelerated economic growth in the region or state.
Kempower is a global designer and manufacturer of NEVI-compliant DC fast-charging units. Earlier this year, Kempower announced it will establish an EV charging station production facility in Durham and expects to hire more than 600 employees and bring $41 million investment to the state. Additionally, Kempower was just granted ETL certification, allowing them to officially begin producing and shipping complete charging stations from the new Durham facility.
Cleantech Impact: Transportation – Recognizes a transportation or mobility project that uses innovative cleantech solutions to create positive impacts for the environment, economy, and residents.
Hollar & Greene Produce / Surrey Yadkin EMC – Electric Transport Refrigeration Unit Pilot
A family-run business based in Boone, NC, Hollar & Greene is one of the largest fresh cabbage producers and distributors in the U.S. They partnered with Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation & North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives to implement an electric transport refrigeration unit (eTRU) pilot program that deploys eTRUs and power supply pedestals for refrigeration of Class 8 trucks at their transportation facility in Mt. Airy, NC, which is served by Surry-Yadkin EMC. The eTRUs shift the refrigeration units of heavy-duty trucks from diesel to electric power when staging between hauls, lowering fuel and maintenance costs while reducing emissions. Because transportation sources account for 36% of NC’s greenhouse emissions this type of program has the potential to help meet the state’s carbon targets.
RTCC also recognizes the contributions of the 2023 Cleantech Innovation Awards’ sponsors, including the Platinum Sponsor, PowerSecure; Host Sponsor, SAS Institute; Gold Sponsor, Hitachi Energy; and Silver Sponsors: ABB, Town of Cary, Circular Design Consultants, City of Durham, DG Matrix, Duke Energy, HBCU Community Development Action Coalition, Ndustrial, Reynolds American, and Yes Solar Solutions.
About Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster (RTCC)
The mission of the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster (RTCC) is to accelerate growth and leadership of the cleantech economy, leveraging the unique concentration of industry, academic, and government leaders in the Research Triangle to create benefits through innovation, deployment, and talent in the region, North Carolina, and beyond.