Focal Point: 'Power Shift'

Posted December 1, 2008
Updated July 18, 2012

Original air date: Dec. 4, 2008

Skyrocketing fuel prices and concerns over climate change have government and business leaders looking for alternative sources of energy.

While North Carolina is at the center of the debate over more offshore drilling for oil and natural gas, entrepreneurs and researchers are developing alternative transportation fuels in North Carolina, including ethanol and biodiesel. They are also breaking new ground in developing alternative, renewable energy sources to generate electricity, including solar, wind and methane from animal waste and landfills.

The General Assembly passed legislation in 2007 requiring the state’s major utilities to produce 12.5 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2021. Duke Power and Progress Energy have responded by making major investments in alternative energy and have contracted with small entrepreneurial companies to generate electricity from alternative, renewable sources. However, there are many roadblocks on the path to sustainable and renewable energy.

Developing alternative energy is expensive. Producers can’t compete in the marketplace with the cheap, abundant energy that nuclear and coal plants produce.

Ethanol production puts pressure on food prices, uses massive amounts of water and can cause its own pollution issues. Solar and wind power are intermittent. And the “not in my back yard” mentality has blocked two commercial wind projects in the state.

Watch the documentary

Watch Focal Point: Power Shift

Focal Point extra

Tour a green home that uses solar and geothermal technology as well as other energy efficiencies at the North Carolina Solar Center at North Carolina State University.

Online resources

Web links are provided for informational purposes only. Views and opinions expressed on the Web sites of these organizations do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WRAL-TV and its parent company, Capitol Broadcasting.

Host: Bill Leslie
Writer/Producer: Clay Johnson
Photographer/Editor: Jay Jennings
Research & Production Assistant: Laura Riddle

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  • dalton642 Jan 3, 2009

    I was just watching this story on WRAL and I wanted to point out to you that you said Shearon Harris generates "900 megawatts a year". That isn't actually correct. Just to clarify for you, when Shearon Harris is at 100% power it generates a minimum of 900 megawatts every HOUR. This varies a little depending on the weather, ie. in the winter it's closer to 940 megawatts every hour and about 910 megawatts every hour in the summer, but it's always above 900 megawatts. 900 MW is Harris' MDC (Minimum Dependable Capacity). In reality, Harris generates on the order of 7 to 8 MILLION megawatts every year.