Commerce's Office of Clean Energy Economic Development supports business and policy leaders as North Carolina transitions to the clean energy future, a significant market shift that's yielding new opportunities to improve both the environment and the state's economy.

The Office provides technical expertise and resources to help communities and organizations take advantage of the shift to energy sources that reduce or eliminate harmful carbon emissions. 

The team regularly engages with energy providers, local and regional governments, industry leaders, ratepayers, economic developers, academics, workforce development professionals, and other interested stakeholders to create and leverage every opportunity available to North Carolinians during this important transition.


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N.C. Commerce's Office of Clean Energy Economic Development has several initiatives currently underway. 

As North Carolina transitions to a clean energy future, the state is shifting from an economy powered by traditional fossil fuels to one powered by energy resources that reduce or eliminate carbon emissions.  According to 2021 data from Duke Energy, the current resource mix for North Carolina’s electricity grid is:

  • Gas (34%)
  • Nuclear (22%)
  • Coal (17%)
  • Hydro (3%)
  • Renewables (10%)
  • Energy Storage ad Energy Efficiency (8%)
  • Other (6%) 

To learn more about the industry sub-sectors driving the new clean energy economy, scroll down in this section for detailed information and links to North Carolina resources supporting these clean energy sub-sectors:

  • Wind Energy
  • Solar
  • Utility-scale Energy Storage
  • Electric Vehicles
  • Advanced/Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMR)
  • Clean Hydrogen

Wind Energy

How this technology  works Using precision shaped blades, the kinetic energy of wind is converted into rotational energy. That rotational energy is converted into electricity through a generator (aka turbine or nacelle). This is the same mechanism that has been used to grind wheat and pump water throughout human history. 
Key differences between onshore and offshore wind energy generation
  • Onshore:
    • Less expensive than its offshore counterpart
    • Quicker installation and cheaper to maintain
    • Onshore wind is variable, meaning there are periods when the wind does not blow during which a project will not generate electricity. 
  • Offshore:
    • The turbines can be higher capacity and more efficient the result of the ability to erect taller towers with longer blade spans in open ocean. Additionally, offshore wind is driven by pressure differentials between land and water, therefore there are less periods of zero-electricity generation.
    • Higher costs to permit, construct, and operate due to distance from shore, operations and maintenance activities in offshore environment, and size/scale of equipment.

Because of the higher capacity turbines, offshore projects require fewer towers for comparable generation.

Key similarities 
  • Many construction and ongoing operations and maintenance jobs are created to support both on and offshore wind projects.
  • Wind powered energy generation has a minimal environmental impact, for example, wind energy has 98-99% less life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions generated than traditional fossil fuel energy sources.

In fact, a wind project will offset its greenhouse gas footprint after six months of operation. 

End of life The expected service life of a wind energy project is approximately 30 years. Between 85-90% of a wind turbine’s mass is made up of easily recyclable metals and materials including aluminum, copper, iron, and steel. The composite materials used in blades are currently more difficult to recycle. As a result, components are often repurposed into new products like pedestrian bridges, affordable housing, and noise barriers. Research and development of innovative recycling processes for end-of-life blades is ongoing and original equipment manufacturers are fabricating recyclable blades for project deployments.


How this technology  works The earth intercepts approximately 173,000 terawatts of solar radiation. When silicon (or other semiconductor material) solar cells are hit with photons (light energy) the energy knocks loose electrons that are combed by thin metal fingers at the top of the cell where they can do electrical work before returning to the back of the cell. Electrons are the only moving parts of a solar cell, which is why they typically last for 20 years or more. There are solar photovoltaic cell (PV) panels that function as described, making electricity, and there are solar thermal panels which use water (or other fluid) directly heated by sunlight to generate heat. 
End of life
  • The life expectancy of solar PV panels is 20-25 years. There is a robust and expanding market for PV reuse and recycling. By weight, approximately80% of typical PV cells are made of glass and aluminum which are easily recyclable materials. There are also companies with cyclic business models, capable of reusing/repurposing 90% of the materials used. HB130 sets out the regulatory guidelines for decommissioning utility-scale solar facilities and directs the Department of Commerce to work with the Department of Environmental Quality to identify existing incentives and grant programs that may be used to encourage research and development on recycling and reuse of PV modules and to facilitate growth of the State's PV module recycling and reuse industry. 
Solar external resources

Utility-scale Energy Storage

How this technology  works According to the International Energy Agency, utility- or grid-scale storage are technologies connected to the power grid that can store energy and then supply it back to the grid at a more advantageous time – for example, at night, when no solar power is available, or during a weather event that disrupts electricity generation. The most widely used technology is pumped-storage hydropower, where water is pumped into a reservoir and then released to generate electricity at a different time, but this can only be done in certain locations.  Batteries are now playing a growing role as they can be installed anywhere in a wide range of capacities.
Key considerations Utility-scale energy storage is a crucial component of renewable energy and pivotal to grid stability and efficiency. Additionally, electricity kept locally can minimize transmission costs and losses and act as a buffer for the overall grid system in times of outages reducing brown/black-outs. Utility-scale battery chemistry is evolving and  improving making these systems more capable, reliable, efficient and cost effective. 
Energy storage external resources 

Electric Vehicles

How this technology  works EVs function is driven by electromagnetism. For starters, EV battery packs consist of thousands of individual lithium (Li)-ion cells working together. The inverter module in an EV draws energy in a direct current (DC) from the battery and flips the direction of electron flow back/forth 60 times per second aka alternative current (AC typical in-house device). This functionality is what gives EVs more precision and control over the speed and torque versus a combustion engine. The electromagnetic rotor can be used to self-charge the EV as well through capturing the energy during regenerative braking.
End of life Expected lifetime of EV batteries is 100,000-2000,000 miles but today the life expectancy of the battery is 15-20 years within the car. Once the EV battery’s performance drops to 70% it is still viable for repurposing, for instance in a residential use store power from sources like solar panels or provide supplementary power resources. Technology for smelting and leaching of batteries to separate and recycle them at their end of life is constantly improving.
Electric vehicle external resources

Advanced/Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMR)

How this technology works

AMRs and SMRs use fission to create heat like traditional nuclear power reactors. There are many types of SMRs that significantly vary in size, design features and cooling types, including:

  • Solid state/ heat pipe reactors
  • Liquid metal cooled reactors
  • High-temperature gas reactors
  • Molten salt reactors
  • Integral pressurized water reactors 
Key considerations
  • SMRs typically generate up to 300MW, compared to the 1.25GW full size utility-scale reactors.
  • As the name implies, these reactors are typically small enough to fit within shipping containers allowing for scalability and cost reductions.
  • SMRs largely rely on “passive” safety systems e.g., natural water circulation, as opposed to “active” systems like water pumping used in traditional reactors. These reactors commonly have a refueling cycling lasting about 20 years before new materials are needed.
  • Like traditional nuclear reactors, radioactive spent fuel will require safe storage for years. 
Nuclear external resources

Clean Hydrogen

How this technology  works Hydrogen fuel is generated using renewable energy in a process called electrolysis. Electrolysis is the splitting of a water molecule (H2O) into its constituents, hydrogen and oxygen. When the electrolysis process is powered by clean energy, it produces “clean hydrogen."
Clean Hydrogen can be used:
  • To power light-duty and passenger vehicles with a hydrogen fuel cell[1] Power other modes of transportation including maritime, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, aviation, and rail.
  • In power sector applications for electricity generation, energy storage, and stationary/backup power.
  • To replace natural gas in energy-intense industrial applications, such as steel manufacturing, ammonia production, concrete production, and oil refining.
Clean Hydrogen external resources

There are many opportunities for your business to take advantage of the emerging clean energy economy and our team at the Office of Clean Energy Economic Development are available to assist you.

If you are managing an active economic development project related to any clean energy sub-sector, contact our colleagues at the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina for assistance.

Currently, offshore wind (OSW) energy development is a key priority for North Carolina, and elsewhere on our website we publish a good deal of information for businesses seeking engagement with this industry sub-sector

The State of North Carolina and the Department of Commerce has conducted several in-depth studies relevant to the clean energy economy and has published assessments and reports about various aspects of the state's opportunity to serve and benefit from the industry as it grows in the United States.  The state has also entered into agreements related to offshore wind energy with the U.K. and Danish governments, and the states of Maryland and Virginia.

Reports and Materials


Relevant Legislation

Relevant Executive Orders

Executive Order Title Notes
EO80 North Carolina's Commitment to Address Climate Change and Transition to a Clean Energy Economy
EO218 Advancing North Carolina's Economic and Clean Energy Future with Offshore Wind
EO246 North Carolina's Transformation to a Clean, Equitable Economy
  • Established science-based goals of a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050;
  • Established a goal that 1.25 million Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) would be registered in the state by 2030;
  • Established that cabinet agencies like Commerce would implement formal Public Participation Plans to solicit public input to help guide policymaking

Jennifer Mundt
Assistant Secretary for Clean Energy Economic Development
(919) 441-7430


Gena Renfrow, CPC
Special Assistant, Clean Energy Communications & Stakeholder Engagement
Dr. Corrado Wesley
STEM Policy Fellow, Office of the Secretary

This page was last modified on 03/09/2024