Utilizing renewable energy sources within the United States gives us a safer energy future, but it’s important for the education systems and partnerships to be a part of this process to make a long-lasting impact. New technology and innovation with clean energy is supported by many universities within the North Carolina university systems. They recognize that NC clean energy is key to more cost-effective education and job growth. Students are even taking the lead because they see how taxes or project developments can make resources more affordable and economical.
The clean energy industry has had an economic impact of more than $7 billion in North Carolina alone. Many of our universities have energy research partnerships and NC renewable energy-specific programs devoted to more cost-effective strategies. North Carolina has the highest concentration of Tier 1 research universities in the country. Let’s take a look at how four multi-faceted public university programs are taking on this approach.
Renewable Energy in NC Western Explorations
Appalachian State University (ASU) has both an Energy Center and Renewable Energy Initiative. The intent of the Appalachian Energy Center is to embrace energy as an integral part of our lives to address the “rising concern about high energy prices, increasing pollution, resource availability, supply reliability and other related effects” to create more opportunities. This extends to energy internships and fellowships, wind energy programs, landfill gas activities, biofuel activities, energy efficiency activities, and solar energy activities.
Additionally, ASU has a public service program called the North Carolina Wind Application Center, which explores the benefits and feasibility of wind energy as a power source. One example is the installation of small-scale wind turbines at schools throughout North Carolina. This wind energy development produces enough electricity for a single home or small business, saving the schools money. These wind farms are linked to more renewable energy, cost-competitive sources of electricity, and economic development, keeping energy dollars in the local economies and driving local job creation.
Fueled by Solar Power & Wind Energy Through Research
Only about 25 miles apart, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and North Carolina State University (NCSU) both contribute to extensive research opportunities and innovative business development in the piedmont region of North Carolina.
An interest in cultivating solar energy and wind energy potential across the state has led to UNC creating an Energy Frontier Research Center solely devoted to developing renewable energy sources hinged around solar fuels. Its vision is, “to provide the basic research to enable a revolution in the collection and conversion of sunlight into storable solar fuels.” This research looks at urban centers and industrial complexes to tap existing technology because of solar power. UNC also recognizes North Carolina’s wind energy potential. While an offshore wind farm may not be an immediate strategy, policy developments and research confirm wind energy is a very attractive option in the race towards energy independence.
NCSU is actually one of the 10 best academic institutions to pursue a degree in renewable or sustainable energy systems. NCSU’s NC Clean Energy Technology Center, founded in 1988, is a hub for outreach, partnership, and successful research to revolutionize NC’s smart grid to integrate “renewable energy technologies and provide new economic opportunities.”
Coastal NC Clean Energy
East Carolina University (ECU) has long had partnerships with organizations supporting coastal and rural developments. These relationships, like the Coastal Studies Institute riding the cutting edge of energy research, seek to expand energy research insights.
These energy insights often come straight from conversations with local residents. ECU’s programs have been focused on Dare County of the Outer Banks, an area particularly rich in culture, history, and untapped natural energy resources. The university’s Department of Anthropology has a project exploring the Perceptions of Environmental and Economic Change. It has included a study on Dare County Residents on Renewable Energy. When asked to complete the sentence “If wind turbines were installed off shore from the Dare County beaches,” a resident who supported it replied with, “It would be awesome. We’d be saving money, harnessing our most abundant natural resource.” Having an NC wind farm off the coast, an area with an abundance of potential wind energy, has Eastern NC residents excited about the potential to bring long lasting renewable energy to the state.
Impact of Clean Energy NC Opportunity
Our state universities offer training programs, renewable energy systems, and research opportunities that will surely contribute to a long-lasting clean energy initiative which will spur economic development through business investments, job creation, increased revenue, and new opportunities for all North Carolinians.