Panelists at Chamber of Commerce Energy Forum. (Lto R) Joe Brannan, NCEMC; Ivan Urlaub, NCSEA; Jim Bennett, BOEM

A box lunch from Jersey Mike’s in Nags Head and an afternoon at Jennette’s Pier on Thursday were the highlights of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce Energy Forum Luncheon.

Remarkable for the amount of information that was packed into two hours, what emerged over the course of the afternoon was that North Carolina takes a backseat to no one when it comes to renewable energy production.

In two areas in particular, the Tarheel state seems to be moving to the head of the class. According to Joe Brannan, the CEO of North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation (NCEMC), this state leads the nation in commercial solar power production. Although California still leads in total solar power, North Carolina has created incentives to build utility scale solar farms and the result is that in ten years the state has zoomed to the head of the class in that category.

The evidence is there to see. Currituck County has two solar farm—one in Shawboro and the other in Moyock—with a third in the permitting process now.

Wind energy is on the cusp of becoming an important part of the state’s energy portfolio. A wind farm is under construction outside of Elizabeth City now, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is moving with surprising speed to hold leases sales not the Wind Energy Areas it has identified. 

Barely a year after the Kitty Hawk WEA was mapped, the agency is planning on holding a lease sale hoping to have a suitor in place by the end of the year, according to Jim Bennett of BOEM.

There are a lot of other areas of non-traditional energy production that North Carolina is moving into, including geothermal and the beginnings of studies examining the Gulf Stream as a potential resource.

An interesting afternoon giving a very real hope for a balanced approach to our energy future.