Top Ten Highlights of Cleantech in North Carolina

In August of 2007, North Carolina because the first Southeastern state in the United States to adopt the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard. In this, all investor- owned North Carolinian utilities are mandated to meet a minimum of 12.5 percent of their energy requirements via renewable energy resources and/or measures of energy efficiency. For rural electrical cooperatives, as well as municipal electric suppliers, the standard is only ten percent. Since the signing of the standard, North Carolina has taken great steps in becoming a leader in the cleantech industry, not just in the South but throughout the entire nation.

1) North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association. North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, or NCSEA, is a nonprofit organization consisting of government personnel, businesses, and individuals interested in bolstering the sustainable energy future of the state. It is the only nonprofit throughout the state that is dedicated to leading policy change and driving the development of the market in such a ways that it will produce green jobs in a new, alternative energy economy. The mission of NCSEA is “to ensure a sustainable future by promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency through North Carolina through education, public policy, and economic development.”

2) Ability to Apply for Financial Incentives to Switch to Renewable Energy Sources. To further enhance the desire for businesses and homeowners to switch to renewable energy, the state has created a number of financial incentives to assist individuals in making the more toward alternative sources of energy. Some of the incentives offered include corporate tax credits, green building incentives, industry recruitment and support, local loan programs, PACE financing, performance based incentives, personal tax credits,, property and sales tax incentives, state grant, loan and rebate programs, and utility loan, discount, and rebate programs.

3) The Research Triangle Regional Partnership (RTRP) is a public-private partnership whose mission is to market a 13-county region and the Research Triangle Park (RTP) for the economic benefit of its communities and to direct strategic and tactical efforts to maintain global competitiveness.

The Research Triangle Regional Partnership recently launched the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster to market and grow the Research Triangle Region’s potential in smart grid, alternative energy and advanced transportation. Cluster members benefit from the triple helix economic development approach by convening partners from academia, industry, and government into a synergistic group, who work together to accelerate market opportunities, advance beneficial policy, provide networking opportunities, and provide a pathway for strategic collaboration to strengthen the cluster and its members. Members draw from the resources within the cluster to create marketing and business opportunities as well as expedient pathways to partner and collaborate.

4) North Carolina State University Solar Center. Through its programs and facilities, the North Carolina Solar Center attracts, trains, and sustains the innovative energy businesses throughout the state. The center provides workforce training, new product demonstration and testing, technical assistance, industrial recruitment services, and financial analysis to assist those in the renewable energy industry. The center’s mission “Is to advance the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency, green building, and clean transportation resources to ensure a sustainable economy that protects our natural environment, encourages energy independence, and lower energy costs for consumers.”

5) Duke Energy Research and Development. The increase in renewable energy projects has been what is leading the way for North Carolina. Duke Energy has been responsible for numerous projects within the last few years. Though a majority of its power output has been done with fossil fuel and nuclear plants, they are looking to assist in the renewable energy field. For example, Duke partnered with other organizations to research biomass conversion viability in electricity plants. Another project has Duke partnering with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to research the practicality for renewable energy produced by wind turbines located on the coast of the state’s Outer Banks. Duke Energy also has plans to create efficient charging stations for electric vehicles across both North and South Carolina.

6) Increase in Job Opportunities throughout the Green Sector. Because of the recession, numerous individuals faced increased unemployment. However, in North Carolina, employment opportunities in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors increased by 22 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association. By 2011, the 546 renewable energy and energy efficiency companies are expected to further increase employment opportunities by another 20 percent.

7) North Carolina Wind Energy. North Carolina Wind Energy, housed by Appalachian State University, looks to promote the use of wind as a viable source or renewable energy in the state. It has a multitude of programs aimed at providing further understanding into wind energy. One of their largest programs is the North Carolina Small Wind Initiative, which looks to increase awareness about the feasibility and benefits of wind power in the region. Another program is Wind for Schools. It seeks to install small-scale wind turbines for educational use at numerous North Carolinian schools. The program is to encourage incorporation of renewable energy education in K-12 science curriculums. There is also the Wind Working Group which is a group of environmentalists, policymakers, educators, citizen action groups, and industry members who are currently pursuing wind power options by elevating supportive legislation.

8 ) Farm Energy Efficiency Project. The North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission and the North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation joined together based on a vision of assisting farmers in becoming more energy efficient. The Farm Energy Efficiency Project educates farmers about the importance of energy efficient throughout all farming operations and aids them in acquiring necessary tools to make improvements toward energy efficiency. Audits are conduced on-site and farmers use the information to determine where they need to be more energy efficient and how to increase it. FEEP also assists in cost-share grant opportunities. One assists farmers offset any costs incurred through the implementation of energy efficiency improvements, and the second is for farmers interested in the implementation of on-farm renewable energy technologies, such as wind, energy, and biofuel.

9) Charlotte Energy Solutions. Charlotte Energy Solutions is a one-stop-shop for renewable energy and energy efficient products. It is a self-run business that assists individuals in finding energy efficient products, including heaters, stoves, or even car conversion.

10) Jackson County Green Energy Park. The Jackson County Green Energy Park (JCGEP) is known as a landfill recovery program offering environmental protection, increased community-wide economic development, and educational opportunities through the use of landfill gas as a resource for clean, renewable energy. Visitors are encouraged to visit JCGEP as there are tours where individuals will learn about the park’s mission and what it does, including a visit to the landfill gas system, greenhouses, and glassblowing studios. There are also classes on-site that use the energy produced for art projects, including pottery and glass blowing.

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He can be reached at

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