Overview

Renewable energy is derived from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, tides, biomass, and geothermal heat that replenish themselves continuously.

Technological processes convert these resources into electricity and heat that we can use in our homes and businesses. Fuel supplies for renewable energy are generally local and are not subject to the price fluctuations seen for fossil-based fuels. In fact, renewables generally have zero fuel cost. The Center is committed to supporting the renewable energy industry through education, technical assistance, technology demonstration, equipment testing, policy analysis, site assessments, workforce development, and economic development.

Why It Matters

Renewable energy creates many public benefits and produces dramatically fewer air and water pollutants than fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels emit sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, mercury, and carbon dioxide. Energy security is increased when our energy portfolio is diversified to include more renewable energy resources. Renewables also provide economic development benefits by allowing money to stay in communities rather than paying to import energy from other areas. The rising cost of traditional fossil-based energy resources and concerns about their effects on the environment are driving increased adoption of clean, renewable technologies. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, over 7% of North Carolina’s electricity is generated from renewable energy resources and this number is on the rise.

Technologies

The Center works to find solutions to technical and policy matters relevant to the solar industry that can be of use to the citizens of North Carolina and the county.

We have a rich history of providing solar thermal equipment testing with our Solar Rating and Certification Corporation (SRCC) accredited laboratory. We also provide solar PV assessments to businesses and other entities in North Carolina and solar thermal energy assessments to citizens, businesses, and government entities in the state.

In NC, the Renewable and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) requires electric utilities to source a certain percentage of their electricity from swine waste and from poultry waste. Some of these systems are producing renewable electricity today.

Biomass energy — the energy from organic matter— has been used ever since people started burning wood for heat thousands of years ago. Today, wood remains our largest biomass energy resource; however, many other sources of biomass have emerged that include plants, agricultural and forest residue, as well as organic components of municipal and industrial wastes. Even fumes (methane) from landfills can be used as a biomass energy source. The use of biomass energy has the potential to greatly reduce the number of greenhouse gas emissions produced by today’s society. Some biomass energy applications include biopower (burning biomass directly, or converting it into a gaseous fuel or oil, to generate electricity), bioproducts (converting biomass into chemicals for making products that typically are made from petroleum), and biofuels (converting biomass into liquid fuels for transportation).

Wind energy development is growing rapidly in the U.S., with utility scale projects installed in 39 states — as of early 2015 — and smaller wind turbines in all 50 states. North Carolina’s first utility scale wind project started construction near the north east corner of the state. Offshore, North Carolina has the largest wind resource of the east coast and federal agencies are now beginning the leasing process to open the door for development of this huge resource. Aside from the many environmental benefits of wind energy – including improved air quality and water savings from the energy sector – communities across the country are excited about wind energy’s economic development potential. As of early 2015 the Department of Energy reports that there are over 600,000 wind-related jobs spread all across the country, while wind businesses directly support over 50,500 jobs.

Geothermal energy refers to the high temperature, thermal energy source inside the earth. In locations where this heat source is close to the earth’s surface, it can be used to generate steam to spin a steam turbine which allows a generator to produce electric power. Another form of energy — also often called geothermal energy — is the use of the, relatively, stable temperature several feet under the ground. This is a heat sink, or ground source heat pump, used to heat and cool buildings. The Center utilizes a geothermal heat pump to provide heating and cooling to the NCSU Solar House.

Photovoltaic (PV) solar cells convert sunlight energy directly into electrical energy. These cells use light radiation from the sun to cause electrons to collect on one side of the PV cell, creating a voltage. Once moved, the electrons want to return, but cannot easily cross back through the cell due to its internal electric field. Therefore, it gets back by flowing through wires and circuits connected to each side of the cell, creating a useable electron flow or direct current (DC) electricity. In 2016, North Carolina had over 2,000 Megawatts of PV operating, which produces about 2% of all the electricity used in the state.

Solar thermal technologies use the sun’s power to heat air or water. These technologies can generally be classified as either active or passive and work by placing a dark-colored material in the sun and collecting the solar energy as heat. Passive solar requires little-to-no moving parts to use solar energy to provide heat to homes or other buildings in the wintertime. It is a simple, age old technology that still provides cheap, clean heat to properly designed buildings. Active solar thermal is everything else, which requires the use of a pump to help collect the solar energy in a fluid (gas or liquid).

Services

The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center has experienced renewable energy experts with knowledge ranging from engineering and testing to financing and policy.

Our team is able to support the progression towards more renewable energy use in a variety of ways. We provide support for businesses, government, utility companies, or non-profits who want to implement renewable energy systems in a manner that works best for the organization’s goals. This technical assistance can range from solar site assessments to organization-wide energy planning.

Renewable energy engineering, policy, and financial experts can help you with a wide range of renewable energy analysis, ranging from simple to complex economic feasibility studies of installing solar energy on a building or campus, to developing a plan for your organization to achieve a 100% renewable energy goal. We can answer some initial questions as a state-funded service, but must charge a fee for more in-depth support. Ask us how we can help.

The Center’s standardized renewable energy assessment service focuses on practical ways companies and other organizations can incorporate renewable energy into their facilities and existing energy systems. Basic Renewable Energy assessments are performed for a fee of about $1,500 per site (depending on location within the state), which covers the full cost of the assessment and report.  More detailed assessments or assessments involving more than one building may require an increased fee. Renewable Energy Site Assessment Request Form

The Center has over 15 years of experience testing solar collectors and systems, and measuring solar radiation. The Center’s engineers have provided performance testing to designers, manufacturers, and distributors of large scale concentrating solar thermal systems, low cost solar air heaters, concentrating PV systems, traditional PV modules, flat plate solar thermal collectors, and evacuated tube solar thermal collectors.

From November 2013 to November 2014, the laboratory was accredited to ISO 17025 (international laboratory quality standard) and was an approved SRCC testing laboratory for SRCC Standard 100. However, due to a lack of sufficient demand for this accredited testing we allowed our approvals to lapse.

Contact us to discuss your solar testing needs.

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TAKE ACTION

Members of the community can get involved in the clean transportation conversation via our Fuel What Matters campaign. Visit FuelWhatMatters.org to learn more. NCSU students can get involved through our semester long internship program. Future events for North Carolinians to get behind the wheel of clean transportation vehicles will start at the beginning of 2017. Aside from the events mentioned above, there will be other events coming soon. Be sure to watch this space as new events will be added regularly.

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