North Carolina report looks at state's clean energy industry

North Carolina report looks at state's clean energy industryThe North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA), on June 21, released the 2011 North Carolina Clean Energy Data Book, a first for the organization. The report brought together diverse information encompassing all aspects of the state’s clean energy economy, including solar, wind, geothermal and more.

The report said that statewide North Carolina has a robust renewable energy and energy efficiency infrastructure.

“However, the presence of clean energy projects can go unnoticed, and future opportunities can be overlooked. To overcome this dynamic, the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association designed this publication,” the report said.

Its intention is to show existing infrastructure, assess potential for more projects and determine the difference between clean energy projects in urban and rural counties throughout the state.

“There is extensive dispersion of renewable energy across the state, but you'll also see that there are regional variations across the state,” Paul Quinlan, report coauthor and NCSEA managing director, said during a conference to discuss the report.

Regarding solar, rural counties were behind urban counties in the state.

“Rural counties are home to a greater number of installed projects in total capacity across all renewable energy technologies except solar energy,” he said. “For solar energy we found that to be more prevalent in urban counties.”

Other forms of clean energy, like geothermal, wind and hydro were more dominant in other parts of the state, said the report’s other author, Rich Crowley, Manager of Market Research and Spatial Analysis with NCSEA.

“We did really find that each area of North Carolina did have existing or key potential strengths that they have already capitalized on or could capitalize on going forward,” he said.

“The Piedmont Triad Region we found was the state’s leader in solar capacity. But there also happen to be actually a very large number—comparatively of small hydroelectric facilities—and also a large population of homes that are potential targets for energy efficient retrofits [in the region],” Crowley said.

However, the Research Triangle region had the highest overall number of solar systems, Crowley said.

“There are a number of many, many small rooftop systems that have been installed on rooftops across the Triangle area,” he said.

While the report didn’t delve into how many jobs the renewable energy or solar industry could support in the state—that will be answered in the census report slated for later this year.

It did discuss how legislature has impacted the industry. For instance, the renewable portfolio has supported the industry.

“About 80 percent of the capacity that we find is from larger systems solar energy systems, and that's being driven by the solar carve out or set aside within the portfolio standard,” Quinlan said.

Still, some of the most important legislation this year to encourage growth in the solar industry failed to pass.

The solar jobs bills and another bill related to allowing market competition for renewable energy didn’t make it through the state’s cross-over deadline, meaning they’re potentially dead in the water.

Between the two, they could have created up to 8,000 solar jobs in North Carolina by 2015, said Ivan Urlab, NCSEA’s executive director. But there is some hope the bills could be reintroduced by the state’s joint utilities oversight committee during a short legislative session held later this year.

Image courtesy of NCSEA.