Patrick Yarn Mills, located in Kings Mountain North Carolina, installed a 105-kilowatt rooftop solar system with the help of the Energy Department's State Energy Program. | Photo courtesy of the NC Energy Office.

The last family-owned yarn-spinning manufacturer in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, has adopted renewable energy technology to power its plant and create clean energy jobs thanks to funding from the Energy Department’s State Energy Program.

The North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Energy Office distributed $2.3 million in Recovery Act grant funding to 18 renewable energy projects across the state. Patrick Yarn Mills, which received a $154,000 grant, did not waste any time putting the funding to work. The company installed a 105-kilowatt rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system designed by North Carolina-based Argand Energy and built with 468 American-made PV panels. As part of the installation process, Patrick Yarns also replaced its black tar-and-gravel roof with a cool roof that helps cut heating costs by reflecting the sun.

The solar array project, which produces enough energy annually to power 14 homes, is helping reduce the company’s energy bills. Energy from the array is used to power the spinning machines -- which the company uses to create high-performance fibers from materials as varied as hemp, stainless steel and recycled beverage bottles -- and excess energy is sold back to the grid. In 2011, the PV system provided nearly 141,000 kilowatt hours to the city, and since the solar array was installed more than two years ago, it has generated enough energy to power 1,732 60-watt lightbulbs for eight hours a day for a year.

While other family-owned spinning plants in the small mill town of Kings Mountain have closed and larger corporations have moved their manufacturing overseas, Patrick Yarns has kept its manufacturing facility in Kings Mountain.

Patrick Yarns, which currently employees approximately 170 people in Kings Mountain, is an eco-friendly business that uses energy-efficient lighting and motors, produces no greenhouse gases and is working toward its goal of zero landfill waste. To watch the solar array in action, check out the company’s solar energy monitoring web app.