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.


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 across the country.  We have a rich history of providing 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.

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 United States, with utility scale projects installed in 41 states — as of early 2018 — and smaller wind turbines in all 50 states. North Carolina is home to the 208 MW Amazon Wind Farm U.S East, the Southeast’s first large utility-scale wind project. Offshore, North Carolina has the largest wind resource on the East Coast and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has already leased over 100,000 acres of that to Avangrid Renewables to build an offshore wind farm. 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 2018 the Department of Energy reports that there are over 102,000 jobs directly supported by the wind industry. In fact, a wind turbine technician is the fastest growing job in the country with a median salary of $53,880.

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).


 The 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 Assessments focus on practical solutions that organizations can use to incorporate renewable energy into their existing energy mix. Renewable Energy (RE) Assessments are available at three levels of complexity, depending upon the phase of the project being considered:

  1. Preliminary Renewable Energy Assessment provides simple payback analysis, and typically does not include a site visit
  2. Renewable Energy Cost / Benefit Analysis for an in-depth review of a particular technology or application with economic and technical modeling
  3. Renewable Energy Feasibility Study, which provides an engineering perspective and is often required by a lending institution for loans or financing opportunities

Please tell us about your project. We will provide an estimated cost after review of the Renewable Energy Pre-Assessment form.

The Center has over 15 years of experience testing solar collectors and systems, and measuring solar radiation. Our 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.

Contact us to discuss your solar testing needs.

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Isaac Panzarella

Assistant Director for Technical Services


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