More Solar Energy Projects Could Be Coming To Chapel Hill

CHAPEL HILL – We might see more solar energy projects being developed in Chapel Hill over the next several years, which could prove to be a lucrative investment for the Town.

The Chapel Hill Town Council said at a meeting Monday evening that it is on board to explore solar energy projects on town-owned facilities.

Town staff said Chapel Hill is not eligible for state and federal grant money in this area, so it’s not feasible for the town to pursue these projects alone. However, private groups could propose partnerships and lease agreements to put solar panels on town property.

John Richardson, Chapel Hill’s Sustainability Officer, said North Carolina is number two in the country for solar installations, trailing behind California. He said potential investors have taken notice of the Tar Heel State.

The pace of developer investment in solar initiatives is also expected to increase in 2014.

“It is becoming pretty clear that North Carolina is becoming a national leader for solar installations,” Richardson said. “One explanation is the fact that a lot of these are supported by a good tax credit structure.”

How It Works

An investor group would request to lease an underutilized municipal space, such as a rooftop. The Council would then approve a 20-year lease to the owner group, and it would install the solar panels, Richardson explained.

“You have no revenue or cash flow through the first six years, but as soon as that ownership flips, you then see greater revenue potential, greater cash flow from that because you then have access at that point; you have access and control of the electricity,” Richardson said.

Under the “Host-To-Own’ Model, after about five to seven years, the lease contract would allow the Town to buy back the solar installation equipment. The Town could eventually take ownership, and at that point it would have access to the benefits of solar generation.

“That would be in one of two forms: either as an offset—so if you had a solar installation on the roof of a building, of course the building has an existing electricity demand— you can offset that demand through solar generation. Or, you could potentially sell that electricity generation back to the grid.”

The “Host-To-Own” Model was used at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market through partnerships with the Carrboro Solar Community Initiative, a handful of local investors, and the Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy, or AIRE.

Town staff have begun a feasibility study for the “Host-To-Own” model and how it could work in Chapel Hill. They are working with AIRE as a consultant and will receive feedback from the study in February.

Homestead Aquatic Center and Other Projects

The Homestead Aquatic Center is also being considered as a potential solar energy site. Richardson said it was designed for solar panel use with an appropriate roof design that faces southward.

It is estimated that the Aquatic Center could produce 100 kilowatts of power, which power would about 10 to 20 homes for one year. Installing the solar energy panels would cost about $350,000.

Richardson said his department is exploring the idea of installing a solar panel structure above the Transit Facilities Parking Lot. It estimated that it could generate 1.1 megawatts of electricity, which would power 150-200 homes for one year.

This idea sparked the approval of Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt.

“If you see that and don’t go, ‘Wow!’ I don’t know what is going on in your head right now,” Kleinschmidt said. “The whole idea that we could take an asset like that, which is just collecting oil drippings from buses, and turn it into something that is generating energy at that level is just astounding.”

With the Council’s approval, Town Manager Roger Stancil has been authorized to further investigate solar energy options, as well as potential investors and project sites.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/solar-energy-projects-coming-chapel-hill/

Tomato Day Brings Crowds to Carrboro Market

CHAPEL HILL – This Saturday morning, farmers woke up early to prepare for the Carrboro Farmers’ Market’s annual Tomato Day. Shoppers lined up to try over 70 different varieties of tomatoes, ranging from Early Girls to German Johnsons.

The process to grow tomatoes takes months. Elise Bortz of Elysian Fields Farm says she started planting tomatoes in her greenhouse early in the year. Yesterday, she prepared to bring her tomatoes to market.

“We start them in the greenhouse the third week of February,” said Bortz. “We started harvesting this year the beginning of July.”

Jackson Holt from Sunset Farms in Snow Camp walked through the steps of growing tomatoes.

“You have to seed the plants in trays,” said Holt. “You have to water them  of course. Once they’re the right size, you have to prepare the field, transplant them. Then, you stake them or trellis them or tie them. Then, you harvest them and sort them and grade them and take them to market and sell them. There’s a lot that goes into it.”

Many farmers’ family histories are embedded in the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. Eighty-five year old farmer Hazeline Zachary from Zach’s Fresh Produce in Snow Camp says her family has sold fruits and vegetables at the Farmers’ Market for about 27 years.

Before the Carrboro Farmers’ Market moved to its current location, a photograph of Hazeline and her husband Dalton was taken while working at the Farmers’ Market.

“My husband and I, my picture, is in the Smithsonian,” said Zachary. “It hung for four months, a huge picture of us kissing.”

In 1994, their picture hung in the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History.

The Zachary’s farm has existed well over 27 years, though.

“We live at the Zachary Home Place,” said Zachary. “It’s been over a hundred years with that family.”

Leah Cook from Wild Hare Farm has sold her produce at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market since 1998. Saturday, she sold six different varieties of tomatoes – Cherokee Purple, Virginia Sweet, Pink Girl, Big Beef, Sun Gold, and Roma.

Many farmers lost track of how many tomatoes they sold.

Tomato Day brought many local residents to the Farmers’ Market and even drew one family to move down to Chapel Hill.

Michelle Fried and her family moved to North Carolina  just three weeks ago. One of their major draws – Tomato Day.

“We came on vacation a year ago, and we thought this was really great, the Tomato Festival and we love tomatoes,” said Fried. “We actually moved out here and this was one of the first things that we wanted to do was come to the Tomato Festival.”

Tomato Day brought a large crowd out to the Carrboro Farmers’ Market and helped support farmers in the area. Alena Stein from Cane Creek Farm in Snow Camp encourages shopping at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market.

“Support your local farmers and come to the Farmers’ Market,” said Stein.

The Carrboro Farmers’ Market is open this summer every Saturday morning from 7 AM to noon and Wednesday afternoons from 3:30 to 6:30 PM. It is located at 301 West Main Street in Carrboro.

You can find more information about the Carrboro Farmers’ Market here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/tomato-day-2013-brings-crowds-to-the-carrboro-farmers-market/

Carrboro Farmers’ Market Hosting Tomato Day 2013

CHAPEL HILL - It’s peak season for farmers and that means tomatoes are at their prime. This Saturday, the Carrboro Farmers’ Market is hosting its annual Tomato Day. Visitors can try more than 70 different kinds of tomatoes, from hybrid to heirloom.

“It’s always been one of the farmers’ favorite crops,” said Erin Jobe, market manager of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. “They’ve really pushed the limits for trying new varieties and creating some of their own varieties.”

The farmers are growing heirloom tomatoes, which are created uniquely to family traditions. Jobe says the flavors heirloom tomatoes possess cannot be found in the grocery store.

“The market really has the biggest selection of tomato varieties that you can find in the area,” said Jobe.

Because of the heavy rainfall Orange County has been facing these last few weeks, Jobe says farmers may have a shortened tomato season.

“It may be a very short tomato season year, which is why it’s a great time to come get out now,” says Jobe. “They’re producing quite well, but a lot of the farmers are concerned with how long they’re going to last.”

The Farmers’ Market houses many other foods including eggplant, corn, okra, peppers, breads, cheeses, squash, zucchini, herbs, and even smoked fish and meats. Jobe says shoppers can get anything they need at the market.

“It’s been a great season so far and the tables are looking great at Market,” said Jobe. “It’s very abundant right now.”

Tomato Day will include tomato tastings, recipes, a raffle to win one of more than 30 prizes, and tomato dishes prepared by chefs from Acme and Pazzo.

With more than 35 different prizes from local businesses, winners could go home with camping rental equipment from Townsend Bertram and Company, dinner at Elaine’s, or a gift certificate to the Spotted Dog, among many other gifts.

Throughout the morning, Craig Thompson will perform his music and kids can enjoy face painting.

Tomato Day will be held at the Carrboro Town Commons, 301 West Main Street, and the event starts 8:30 AM. For more information on the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/non-profit-news/carrboro-farmers-market-hosting-tomato-day-2013-this-saturday/

Strawberries, Jazz, Faculty/Staff Satisfaction

CHAPEL HILL/CARRBORO – A majority of UNC faculty and staff say the university is a “highly effective organization” with a strong vision for the future. That’s according to the results of a University-wide organizational effectiveness survey conducted in January.

UNC officials say they received more than 3,000 responses, an uptick from the last time they conducted the survey three years ago.

Among the results: 66 percent of respondents say UNC is a “highly effective organization,” and 79 percent say they’d recommend Carolina as a place to work.

The numbers aren’t all rosy, though: 54 percent also say UNC needs to make “significant changes” in order to remain successful five years from now.

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Head to the Carrboro Farmers’ Market this Saturday for their annual Strawberry Jamboree. Beginning at 8:00 a.m., you can sample fresh strawberries, plus shortcake and homemade whipped cream; you can also find lots of strawberry recipes—and Benjamin Vineyards will be on hand to offer strawberry wine.

The Carrboro Farmers’ Market is located at the Carrboro Town Commons, on W. Main Street adjacent to Town Hall.

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And beginning this Thursday, May 23, Southern Village is kicking off “Swinging Big Band Thursdays,” a concert series that will host big bands on five different Thursdays throughout the spring and summer.

The concert runs from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on the Village Green; the 17-piece Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra will be performing. It’s open to the public and entirely free, but donations for the orchestra will be accepted.

http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/news-around-town-strawberries-jazz-facultystaff-satisfaction/

Plant a Tomato, Race For Fitness, Take Down Cancer

On Saturday morning, the Carrboro Farmers’ Market is giving tomato seedlings to kids in conjunction with Fifth Season Garden Company.

The seedlings come with potting soil and growing advice from local farmers. The giveaway starts at 8:30 a.m. at the Carrboro Town Commons.

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Head over to McCorkle Place at 9 o’clock on Saturday for the 5k for Fitness footrace, sponsored by the Public School Foundation and Fleet Feet Sports.

More than 200 Chapel Hill-Carrboro teachers and staff have been training for the race. A Mascot dash featuring mascots from all the district’s schools will take place fifteen minutes before race time, and the event is open to all.

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Extraordinary Ventures will host the 25th annual KidSCope Gala on Saturday night at 6 o’clock to raise money for early childhood mental health services.

The event features a live and silent auction, food and drink donated by area restaurants, and photo opportunities with local dignitaries.

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This Sunday you can hit the mat for a good cause.

UNC Associate Head Coach Cary Kolat is a former two-time NCAA champion and a member of the 2000 Olympic Wrestling team. He’s hosting a unique training opportunity this weekend- a charity wrestling clinic to help a young girl battling cancer.

The five hour clinic costs $30 per person, with the proceeds going toward medical expenses for Mackenzie Garrett, a two-year-old undergoing surgery and chemotherapy for liver cancer.

The event starts at 10 a.m. in the Wrestling Room at Fetzer Gym. To find out more and pre-register, email Karen Veltri: Karveltri(AT)gmail.com.

http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/news-around-town-plant-a-tomato-race-for-fitness-take-down-cancer/

Baby Ginger

Baby Ginger, gorgeous, exotic and delicious! Thanks to Alex and Betsy Hitt, farmers/ owners of Peregrine Farm and vendors at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, you can stock up on this versatile root with its pale thin skin and mild, though distinctive sweet peppery flavor.   This will definitely be my new culinary love, as Betsy says they should have them available until December…ginger ale, ginger juice, pickled ginger, candied ginger, gingersnaps and gingerbread!  And, for this blog, Ginger-Tamari Sauce.


Betsy Hitt, with basket of ginger root

No time for baking, and frankly it is not my favorite form of cooking, I decided to make a simple sauce to dress up a salmon fillet.   In the fridge there was a bag of spicy arugula, purchased from John and Cindy at Eco Farm, that would provide the perfect bed for the fish and ginger-tamari concoction was developing in my mind.

Ingredients for Ginger- Tamari Sauce:
1 t extra virgin olive oil
2 T chopped green onion or shallot
1 T minced garlic
2T minced baby ginger
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
1 cup unsweetened orange juice
1/2 t Sriracha sauce
1 t fresh lime juice

Directions:
Heat oil, over medium-high heat, in medium saucepan.
Add onion, garlic and ginger.  Cook until onion is softened.  Don’t let the garlic get dark brown or burn.  It will become bitter and you’ll need to start over!
Add wine and cook until reduced and pan is almost dry.  About 3 to 5 minutes.
Mix in orange juice and tamari.  Bring to a low boil and let it cook about 5 minutes.
Taste, season with Sriracha and lime juice.  Taste again and adjust flavorings to you preference.
Cool.  Makes about 1½ cups.  Will keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Arugula.  So tender, I don’t even stem at all.  Though, do make sure you rinse several times as it tends to be sandy!  Dry in spinner.

Salmon.  Rub both sides lightly with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Grill or bake.

The dish.  Mound arugula in center of plate.  Drizzle with sauce, top with fish and spoon on however much ginger goodness you like!

The beverage.  White wine, or club soda, tinged with a coin of ginger and a slice of lime.

(Sauce recipe adapted from Chef Cary Neff)
http://chapelboro.com/columns/our-markets-bounty/baby-ginger/

Winter Market Salad

The days from that third Thursday in November to the first day of January are filled with celebrations of all kinds. Family dinners, brunches, cocktail parties, a lunch with special friends and every now and then an extravagant multi- course dinner at a five-diamond restaurant! I love it all and toast the season every chance I get. It is just about now, that I find myself craving something clean, fresh and bright, which is exactly what I created to balance out recent culinary heavy hitters. 
 
Join me in celebrating our markets’ bounty with this Winter Market Salad. Ingredients are easily found either at the Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market or Carrboro Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, and this week on Thursday afternoon. That would be my first recommendation, though a good grocer should have these same ingredients or similar. This could not be easier to put together and will leave you feeling guilt free and satisfied with its delicious flavors and textures. Plus, it is a visual delight and we know we eat with our eyes first!
 
 
Winter Market Salad
 
Ingredients:
  • Arugula
  • Radishes
  • Roasted beets
  • Carrots
  • Bread
  • Cheese
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Vinegar, I used cider vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
 
Directions:
 
Trim greens from radishes, beets and carrots. Wash the tubers and dry with a kitchen towel. Reserve greens for steaming or tossing into a soup, as their nutritional value is very high.
 
Wash the arugula to remove any sand or soil. Spin dry of pat dry with kitchen towel.
 
Roast the beets in a shallow pan with water covering the bottom. 350 degrees until easily pricked with a fork or tip of a sharp knife, about 30 minutes, depending on size of the beet. When cool enough to handle, remove the peel by rubbing with your fingers or paring knife. Slice into 1/3-inch thick rounds.
 
Thinly slice radishes and carrots. 
 
Cover slice of your favorite artisanal bread with grated cheese. Toast until cheese melts and begins to brown. Remove from heat and slice into large “croutons”. 
Mound arugula on a plate. Scatter with vegetables. Dress with a splash of vinegar and oil. Top with croutons and garnish with sea salt, ground pepper and a sprig of parsley or tarragon. 
 
 
Enjoy.   Forthcoming: super food soups!
http://chapelboro.com/columns/our-markets-bounty/winter-market-salad/