Renewable Energy in North Carolina: The Potential Supply Chain and Connections to Existing Renewable and Energy Efficiency Firms

Article excerpt

Although our understanding of industry cluster dynamics is fairly well developed, it is less clear whether renewable energy firms and related potential suppliers co-locate in similar ways to other more established industries. Consequently, this paper should be primarily viewed as a first step in disentangling the co-locational tendencies of the renewable industry and related potential suppliers. Based on methodology and data developed by the Renewable Energy Policy Project and the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, we find that the geography of the potential renewable suppliers is tightly concentrated along the 1-85 corridor between Charlotte, the Triad and the Research Triangle region with significant outposts in Hickory, Wilmington and especially Asheville. It also appears that the potential suppliers have co-locational preferences that overlap significantly with actual renewable energy and energy-efficiency firms already located in North Carolina. Less well understood is how these potential suppliers and renewable/energy-efficiency firms inter-relate regarding both potential knowledge spillover effects and the formation of formal and informal networks of production--a key area for future research.

Aunque nuestro entendimiento de la dinamica de aglomeracion de la industria esta bastante desar rollado, no esta tan claro si las empresas de energia renovables y sas potenciales suplidores se ubicaran de manera similar a otras industrias mejores establecidas. En consecuencia, este ensayo debe ser visto principalmente como un primer paso para descifrar las tendencias de colocalizacion de la industria de renovables y sus potenciales suplidores. Basado en la metodologia y daws elaborado por el Proyecto de Politica de Energia Renovable y la Asociacion de Energia Sustentable de Carolina del Norte, encontramos que la geografia de los potenciales suplidores esta fuertemente concentrada a lo largo del corredor 1-85 entre Charlotte, la Triad y el Research Triangle con otros puntos importantes en Hickory, Wilmington y especialmente Asheville. Tambien parece que los posibles suplidores tienen preferencias de co-localizacion que se imponen de manera significativa con firmas existentes de energia renovable y eficiencia energetica, localizadas en Carolina del Norte. Poco entendimiento existe alrededor de como se relacionan entre si estos potenciales suministradores y empresas de energia renovables y de eficiencia energetica con respecto a los efectos de la potencial difusion de conocimiento y la formacion de redes formales e informales de produccion--un drea clave para la investigacion futara.

KEY WORDS: renewable energy, energy efficiency, supply chain, North Carolina, industry clusters

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So we have a choice to make. We can remain one of the world's leading importers of foreign oil, or we can make the investments that would allow us to become the world's leading exporter of renewable energy. We can let climate change continue to go unchecked, or we can help stop it. We can let the jobs of tomorrow be created abroad, or we can create those jobs right here in America and lay the foundation for lasting prosperity.

--President Obama, March 19, 2009 (The Administration of President Barack Obama, 2009)

INTRODUCTION

The topic of renewable energy frequently takes center stage in conversations about sustainability, climate change, and the conservation of natural resources (Dias et al. 2006; Lund 2007; Kaygusuz 2009). Furthermore, geopolitical concerns about political unrest in many energy resource-rich areas of the world have elevated the need to quickly develop scalable and financially viable renewable energy technologies. More recently, policymakers are increasingly realizing the economic development potential of the renewable energy value chain in terms of generating jobs (Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP) 2004, 2005, 2007). The employment potential of renewable energy is, in part, due to the potential for renewable energy agglomerations to emerge that can trigger new forms of regional development (Glasmeier and Bell 2006; Cherry and Saha 2008). …