Gary Allen (center) listens as President Obama delivers the 2011 State of the Union address, which highlighted Allen's success in reinventing his family's struggling roofing business.

A Presidential Pat on the Back

January 27, 2011

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A graduate of a North Carolina Solar Center training program was thrust into the international spotlight during President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday, thanks to his success in reinventing a struggling business through the emphasis of solar roofing and energy conservation products and services.

In hopes of transforming his 60-year-old company, Michigan native Robert Allen began a search for the nation’s top photovoltaics training program. He soon found the NC Solar Center’s Renewable Energy Technologies Diploma Series, and traveled to North Carolina for the weeklong workshop.

“Robert was very interested in learning how the whole system works and wanted to know everything about proper installation, module efficiencies, system design and cost,” said photovoltaics instructor David Del Vecchio, who immediately recognized the businessman President Obama referenced as the same student who sat in the first row of his class, asking all the right questions.

With the help of an investment from the Recovery Act and training received at the Solar Center, Allen was able to upgrade his manufacturing business and expand it from a roofing facility into one that produces solar shingles. This, the president stated, is what Americans have been doing for more 200 years – reinventing themselves.

“Our models were built to accommodate the largest range of solar projects possible in an effort to decrease the cost of doing business for all solar companies across North Carolina as [the NC Solar Center] worked to grow the state’s green economy,” solar financial tools instructor Wade Fulghum said. “Robert was a standout in the class – he asked tough questions that were directly rooted in real world project payback

“I could tell that his questions were born out of building industry experience, and he put our financial modeling tools to the test.”

Created in 1988, the Solar Center – as part of NC State’s College of Engineering – works closely with state and local government and the renewable energy industry. It manages and maintains the NCSU Solar House and serves as a resource for innovative, green energy technologies through research and demonstration, technical assistance, education, outreach and training.

It also administers the Database of Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE), a resource providing financial incentives and policies.