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The original item was published from 2/4/2021 9:31:00 AM to 2/28/2021 12:05:03 PM.

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Posted on: February 4, 2021

[ARCHIVED] Orange County Community Climate Action Grant program awards funds to six projects

Photo of rooftop solar panels on Habitat home

The Orange County Board of Commissioners approved six projects on Feb. 2 to receive funding from the Orange County Community Climate Action Grant program for 2020-21. The grant program provides funding for climate action projects that will benefit Orange County residents both socially and financially.

The grant program is funded by a quarter-cent of property tax revenue each year, with $478,657 available for FY 21.

The Community Climate Action grant program received seven applications from a variety of non-profit and public organizations whose total requests add up to more than $1.2 million. While staff fielded some questions from prospective applicants from the private sector, no private sector applications were received, said Brennan Bouma, Orange County Sustainability Coordinator.

Following scoring and eligibility guidelines approved by the Board of County Commissioners, the applications were reviewed and scored by the Commission for the Environment (CFE) and the Human Relations Commission (HRC). The Human Relations Commission scored the applications on the Social Justice and Racial Equity criterion, as this pertains to their expertise and because the racial representation of the CFE as a whole does not reflect the racial diversity of Orange County.

The HRC and the CFE discussed the scoring process and reviewed application materials in three monthly meetings. On Dec. 14, each of these commissions approved their final scoring and comments on each application to be presented to the BOCC.

“I’m very pleased with the quality of the projects we are supporting,” said Orange County Commissioner Sally Greene, who served on the committee that helped develop the scoring criteria. “I think it worked out well getting input from the Human Relations Commission for the racial justice aspect. I’m very pleased to see how this is working out.”

The top five scoring applications were funded at 100 percent of their request. The sixth project received a little more than half of its request. One project did not receive any funding.

The top scoring project came from Habitat for Humanity from Orange County, which requested $95,000 to install rooftop solar panels on new Habitat homes in the community.

“Habitat is currently constructing new homes throughout the county,” said Jennifer Player, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Orange County. “These funds are going to make it possible for ten more families in Orange County to enjoy the benefits of solar on their homes. I want to applaud the county’s commitment to ensuring these climate action funds are distributed in an equitable way and are accessible to everyone in our community.”

The FY22 grant cycle will begin later this spring, and we look forward to funding another full round of community projects to help make Orange County more efficient and more equitable, Bouma said.

Solar Panels on Affordable Habitat Homes

Applicant (Collaborators): Habitat for Humanity of Orange County
Cost Estimate: $95,000
Recommended Funding Level: $95,000
Total Score (Out of 25 pts):  21.7

Habitat for Humanity of Orange County proposes to install rooftop solar panels on ten newly constructed affordable Habitat homes in Orange County. East Chapel Hill Rotary Club will partner with Habitat to help raise funds and work with local solar installation companies to obtain equipment at cost. Project Drawdown, a collaboration of global scientists, ranks rooftop solar as the 10th most important solution to climate change on a list of 100.

Water Heater Replacement

Applicant (Collaborators): NAACP of Chapel Hill and Carrboro (Rebuilding Together of the Triangle and Habitat for Humanity of Orange County)
Cost Estimate: $122,100
Recommended Funding Level: $122,100
Total Score (Out of 25 pts): 21.2

This project will help 30 low-income households transition from inefficient, greenhouse gas generating water heaters to highly efficient, greenhouse gas minimizing water heaters. Applicants to the Orange County Home Preservation Coalition (OCHCP) for weatherization, energy efficiency, urgent repair, or other related services constitute the target population for this project. 

Cane Creek Reservoir 352.4kW DC Solar Array

Applicant (Collaborators): Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA)
Cost Estimate: $75,000
Recommended Funding Level: $75,000
Total Score (Out of 25 pts): 19.6

OWASA wants to build a 352.4 kW DC solar array at the Cane Creek Reservoir to increase its renewable energy portfolio, but the plan was put on hold by the pandemic. Due to budget issues, OWASA had to postpone several capital projects, including this one. This project will benefit OWASA customers by reducing the utility’s annual electricity costs, keeping water rates affordable.

Tree Planting Program

Applicant (Collaborators): Town of Chapel Hill
Cost Estimate: $40,000
Recommended Funding Level: $40,000
Total Score (Out of 25 pts): 18.5 

The requested funds will be used to purchase, plant and maintain 40 large, native trees principally within two of the Town’s census block groups that rank highest in our tree planting suitability analysis. The criteria for our analysis includes a variety of factors such as the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index (SVI), existing canopy density, proximity to transit stops, transit use, proximity to affordable housing, and affordable housing vulnerability to extreme heat. The 40 large trees are estimated to sequester 2.42 metric tons of CO2e every 10 years and 19.36 metric tons of CO2e over 80 years.

Solar-powered Electric Vehicle Charging Station

Applicant (Collaborators): Town of Chapel Hill
Cost Estimate: $18,500
Recommended Funding Level: $18,500
Total Score (Out of 25 pts): 17.7

Chapel Hill will purchase and install an EV ARC 2020, a charging system that combines solar generation with battery storage to power electric vehicles with 100 percent renewable and emissions-free energy. The EV ARC will be placed at the Eubanks Road Park & Ride lot, located near the new Carraway Village development. In addition to providing free public charging, the EV ARC will also have a dedicated port to power Orange County Mobility On-Demand transit vehicles.

Cedar Falls Park Multipurpose Field LED Light Conversion

Applicant (Collaborators): Town of Chapel Hill
Cost Estimate: $220,000
Recommended Funding Level: $128,057 (all remaining funds)
Total Score (Out of 25 pts): 17.0

The requested funds will be used to purchase and install 40 LED light fixtures to replace 48 existing, less efficient metal halide fixtures located at the Cedar Falls Park multipurpose fields. The LEDs will save 38,850 kilowatt hours of electricity and more than $97,150 in utilities over their useful life (25 years). This will result in a savings of 220 metric tons of CO2e.

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