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The Daily Tar Heel

Putting green on top: Chapel Hill roofs put to sustainable uses

Rooftop space could be the new hot trend in Chapel Hill real estate.

In 2004 UNC installed a green roof on Rams Head Plaza and has followed with similar projects on the addition to the School of Nursing and on the fourth floor of the FedEx Global Education Center. The planted roofs put a vacant and traditionally neglected space to productive use — absorbing and reusing rainwater reducing sewer costs and improving air quality.

This weekend's Hi Mom! Film Festival took the rooftop inspiration in a different direction. With pancakes and an international film line-up the Chapel Hill co-sponsored event planned to hold its 10th year of viewings in the plaza atop Wallace Parking Deck though rain moved the event to the Carrboro ArtsCenter.

And in a recent move to make use of rooftops across the state Duke Energy Corp. has announced that it's now accepting bids from the solar power industry to use N.C. rooftops for power production.

Duke Energy will pay home and business owners for rights to use their rooftops while retaining ownership of the equipment and the electricity produced. The $100 million network will start with 850 rooftops and ground-level sites generating electricity to feed the power grid.

This is a positive shift away from large centralized power production and towards small producing sites linked into larger networks. Such energy initiatives come as a timely response to the state's renewable energy portfolio standards which require energy providers to produce 12.5 percent of electricity from renewable sources in North Carolina by 2021.

Duke's solar project contributes to a larger effort of curbing carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants. And Duke can now go further to produce clean energy and to cut power demand through energy efficiency programs — that's something we can all contribute to.

Green thumbs up to local  innovation in putting rooftop space to good use.

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