The Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative, which has
provided power to Hatteras Island since 1945, was the subject of the
discussion on Sunday, Feb. 7, on the Radio Hatteras Interview show, "To
the Point," hosted by Island Free Press editor Irene Nolan.
The guests for the interview were Susan Flythe, executive vice
president and general manager of CHEC, and Laura Ertle, director of
public relations and marketing.
Flythe talked about several initiatives that the cooperative is
undertaking this year, including the Community Solar Garden, a
changeover to more night-sky-friendly security lighting, and selling
smart thermostats at a discount to members.
Construction is underway now at the Community Solar Garden, which is
located on a 1.3-acre site next to the Hatteras Island Ocean Center in
Hannah Solar is the contractor and is in the process of installing
concrete footers and 180 solar panels, which will provide approximately
50 kilowatts of energy.
The panels will be sold to CHEC members for $685 each. Members who
purchase the panels will get a credit on their monthly power bills over
the next 20 years that will vary according to the project's output, but
will probably be in the range of $2 to $3.
Just like with water heater sales, CHEC will offer one-year, on-bill
financing of the panel energy rights for 5 percent interest. On
$685, the monthly payment would be $58.64 and the total interest over
the year will total $18.66.
"Community solar is an attractive option for our members who rent their
homes, for members who do not have a south-facing roof, or for those
who may not want to penetrate their roof in our coastal environment,”
said Susan Flythe, CHEC general manager and executive director.
“Community solar makes solar accessible to all of our members.”
CHEC isn't expecting to sell out of the solar panels immediately.
The cost of solar energy has decreased significantly, but it is still
expensive, says CHEC general manager Susan Flythe, and not as cost
effective as natural gas or nuclear energy.
However, she also said that several members have already reserved
The price for CHEC panels was set according to financial modeling done
by the National Renewable Cooperative Organization (NRCO), a group that
CHEC and other North Carolina cooperatives are working with to do their
projects. Four in North Carolina were completed in 2014, and nine
are to be completed by the end of the year, all under the auspices of
the North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation and NRCO.
At its November meeting, the CHEC Board of Directors voted to replace
its high-pressure sodium (HPS) security lights with LED lights.
The LED lighting is more night-sky friendly, reducing light pollution
with shades that direct the light downward.
The switch will also save energy. Flythe said the LED lights use
about half the energy of the HPS lights. Furthermore, she said,
it will help CHEC comply with the requirements of the state Renewable
Energy Portfolio Standards (REPS) law.
Members will not have to ask to have them replaced. CHEC will
begin replacing 957 of its current security lights with LED lighting
after the first of the year. Flythe says all of them should
be replaced by the end of the year.
CHEC installs the security lights at the request of its members for a
monthly rate of $9.60 for 100 watt HPS lights and $17.60 for 250 watt
lights. The LED lights will cost the same amount.
In March, CHEC will begin selling Ecobee smart thermostats at a
discounted rate to members, who, in exchange, must agree to let CHEC
control the settings in order to manage the load.
thermostats retail for about $250, Flythe said, and they will be sold
by CHEC to members with all-electric service for $100 and to those with
gas heat for $150.
Flythe also said that CHEC has recently received updated estimates for
running electric cables under the new Bonner Bridge replacement.
The newest estimate, which is "upwards of $10 million," is in line with
previous estimates that CHEC has received during the long process of
planning for the replacement.
Ertle talked about the CHEC's community programs, which is part of the
First, among them, is Operation Roundup. In this program, CHEC
members agree to "round up" their electric bill to the next dollar
The cost amounts to about $6 a year for members. CHEC uses the
funds for grants to help individuals and families who are having
financial problems with such items as rent or medical bills --
anything but their power bills, which the cooperative cannot give
Since the program began in 1997, Ertle said, the cooperative has
awarded $670,000 in grants to needy community members.
Other community programs include Bright Idea grants for teachers,
grants to send students to basketball camp or on an all-expense paid
trip to Washington, D.C., and scholarships for graduating seniors at
Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative.
For more information on any of the programs, go to the cooperative's
website at www.chec.coop.
"To the Point" airs on the island's community radio station, FM 101.5 ,
at 5 p.m. on the first and third Sunday of each month. It is
repeated on the second and fourth Sunday. Those who don't live on
Hatteras can listen to the show on Sundays through live streaming at www.radiohatteras.org.
Scroll down and click on the appropriate "To the Point" logo to listen
to the audio of the interview.
MORE ABOUT RADIO HATTERAS
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