NC 'clean energy' firms jump to 1,800 in less than a year

Posted June 22, 2011

Clean energy

— Passage of the Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) law in 2007 by the North Carolina General Assembly and incentives from the federal government are helping create a growing “clean industry” in the state, according to the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association.

North Carolina is now home to 1,792 companies focused on renewable energy, and the state is the site for 1,829 renewable energy systems, according to a new report from the association.

The number of companies jumped from 1,100 last fall to nearly 1,800, based on data gathered by the group as of March. And these numbers could be low, according to the report’s authors.

Published Tuesday, the 90-page “Clean Energy Data Book” is the group’s first effort to catalog the state of clean energy projects. Over the past two years, the Association has reported that the clean energy sector employs 12,000 people in 2010, up from 10,000 in 2009. A reported on 2011 employment will be issued in November.

The existing renewable energy projects have the potential to generate more than 2,809 megawatts of power. That’s enough for 561,000 homes, based on 1 megawatt per 200 households.

More projects are in the works. For example, last week, Atlantic Wind won approval in Perquimans and Pasquotank counties to begin construction on a 20,000-acre wind farm site by next spring and could initiate power generation by 2013.

The data, which is broken down in the report for each of the state’s seven economic development zones, is conservative, according to Julie Robinson, a spokeswoman for the group.

“[O]ur annual Industries Census has a very specific (narrowly defined) definition of what is a ‘clean energy job’ – i.e. this includes only full-time equivalent employees who spend a majority of their time on renewable energy, energy efficiency, high performance building or smart grid,” Robinson explained. “This ‘definition’ means that our number of companies and jobs are very conservative, and thus, we actually have many more people working in the clean energy industries when you start extrapolating the results.”

By category, the state has:

  • 33 biomass projects with a generating capacity of 551 megawatts
  • 836 geothermal projects (megawatt projects not available, the group says)
  • 67 hydroelectric projects with a generating capacity of nearly 1,900 megawatts
  • 829 solar projects with just over 59 megawatts of generating capacity
  • 64 wind energy projects with 300 megawatts of potential capacity

“Renewable energy and energy efficiency is an emerging and potentially significant economic driver for North Carolina,” said Paul Quinlan, managing director of the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association and a co-author of the Clean Energy Data Book. “Clean energy companies, jobs, investments and projects can be found in almost every county in North Carolina from the mountains to the coast – and the potential for further growth is immense.”

Some companies, governments and other institutions are also moving to embrace so-called “LEED” standards (leadership in energy and environmental design) for energy efficiency buildings. According to the association, 770 LEED buildings covering just over 77 million square feet have been constructed.

Another 770 Energy Star-rated buildings also have been built. They cover nearly 52.8 million square feet.

The group calculated as well just how many homes and manufactured homes have the potential to be upgraded for energy efficiency. Nearly 1.2 million homes built before 1970 could be upgraded. The state has nearly 598,000 manufactured homes.

The N.C. SEA has spoken out publicly in favor of the Solar Jobs Bill (H495/S473) and the Energy Independence and Job Creation Bill (S694) in the North Carolina General Assembly. (Read an OpEd published in WRAL Tech Wire here.)

The North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center funded the report.

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  • renderofveils Jun 23, 2011

    Peak oil, peak oil, peak oil. It's the same sky-is-falling tripe that's been recycled since M. King Hubbert came up with his bell curve in the late '40s. In theory, he's correct. Given a finite amount of recoverable resources, it will run out faster than it is renewed. He predicted that the world would run out in the 1970s. We didn't. Why not? Because better engineering allowed us to discover and recover reserves that were previously unknown. And then off and on through the 90s, 00s, and now we're hearing the same discussion. Peak oil! We must find some renewable source because we're going to run dry any day! Don't look at stuff like because those USGS kooks want us to believe that the estimates taken as fact a few years ago can be revised as technology improves.

  • Scaramouche Jun 23, 2011

    "So you are against small business loans."

    There's a difference between handout and loan."

    Not really, particularly if your business fails and you declare bankruptcy...which is, ya know, not all that uncommon with small business'. hey! Just like is going to happen with some of the GE startups. Wow! It is Capitalism at work.

  • dgods8 Jun 22, 2011

    I would rather have thousands and thousands of smaller photovoltaic projects and fewer nuclear plants because well, you know. No one has to cut themselves off of the main power grid either they just might save some of their operating costs over a period of twenty plus years if they pursue the tax credits and incentives that are offered for using the technologies designed to reduce operating costs over a long period of time. IT WILL not happen tommorow people why not let it begin today. Smart grid technology surely wont create jobs and electricians will have plenty of work without replacing inefficent lighting etc. and air conditioners dont need to be more efficient and our population wont keep growing ....yeah right.

  • WRALwontdeletemyaccount Jun 22, 2011

    "So you are against small business loans."

    There's a difference between handout and loan.

  • WRALwontdeletemyaccount Jun 22, 2011

    Of course it's government hand out money sustaining these, not real demand.

  • Keepin_it_real_in_NC Jun 22, 2011

    "The world is much closer to running out of oil"

    I've been hearing that since the early 70's. Sheesh, nobody believes it anymore.

  • dgods8 Jun 22, 2011

    So pointing out that that solar power is not as efficent as the sources we currently use, OK no one is saying that is not true but, good solar panels last for 20+ years now with little or no maintenance and a free source of fuel by the time the solar panels that are being installed today need to be replaced guess how much the technology will have evolved? It is a process. Look how computers moved along since they were invented. Should we just have abandoned that technology? It is really similar if you think about it because most of us only had acess to what we consider a real computer in the past 20 years. But you probably did have a calculator with a tiny solar panel on it before then.

  • Scaramouche Jun 22, 2011

    "Remember, investing in new technology is not the same as implementing bad technology"

    Those computers sure do suck ya know. Big as a house! Can barely add 1 and 1.

  • Scaramouche Jun 22, 2011

    "I believe in taking reasonable steps to create clean energy, but we are a long way from that point & to given taxpayer money away to encourage bad projects makes no sense. Remember, investing in new technology is not the same as implementing bad technology"

    So in other words, tugs, you believe in doing nothing at all.

  • Nunya123 Jun 22, 2011

    godnessgracious2 - your logic is flawed and based on a misunderstanding of photovoltaics. Whenever they are placed any angle from direct sunlight, their efficiency goes down. Here is something to think about, take a look at this map :,-82.341667&ll=42.943606,-82.339869&spn=0.03707,0.067463&t=h&z=14

    This is the worlds largest solar plant. It produces a whopping 80 MW (our research facility would utilize 20% of that, standard operating requirements for a single nuke plant would use most of that for auxilary systems), yet covers 250 Acres. In the same space you could produce approximately >2000 MW using nuclear. The ITER is only using 158 acres and sill produce nearly 8 times the energy of the largest solar plant. If you're so conviced, write the check for $40k and cut your lines. Hope it isn't cloudy in the winter where you live.