Energy Industry in Charlotte USA Fuels Growth in Manufacturing, Engineering

Learn how Charlotte has become the nation's New Energy Capital, employing more than 27,000 workers and drawing 260 companies directly tied to the energy industry.

By
Bill Lewis
On Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 06:22
Charlotte, NC

Driving tremendous growth and investment in Charlotte USA, the energy technology sector is one of the region’s most dramatic success stories. Charlotte USA hosts more than 260 companies and employs nearly 28,000 employees directly tied to this important pillar of the regional economy. The presence of industry leader Duke Energy, the largest electric power holding company in the country, is a major factor in attracting other industry players. Global nuclear engineering firms such as Areva NP, The Shaw Group, Chicago Bridge & Iron, Toshiba, Siemens, Parsons, URS, Westinghouse, and Mitsubishi have substantial operations in Charlotte region. They all enjoy the applied research capabilities, innovative public/private partnerships, and a vast and highly skilled talent base that is amongst the deepest in the country.

Energy Production & Infrastructure Center (EPIC)

The region is home to the growing public/private research and educational powerhouse in the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC) at UNC Charlotte. Also supporting the new national energy capital is the Electric Power Research Institute. One of only six such centers in the country, EPRI brings together scientists, engineers and academics in addressing industry challenges, and works to advance safe, reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible electricity.

“Charlotte provides a great business climate and living environment for our employees,” says Rhonda Bishop, general manager of corporate services for Mitsubishi Nuclear Energy Services. The Charlotte headquartered organization is a leading designer of next generation clean air nuclear energy generating stations. “There is a large base of support for nuclear energy here with a great knowledge and talent base, strong educational institutions, and resources such as EPIC which support our work,” Bishop says. EPIC’s success in achieving their goals of education, applied research, and economic and workforce development is nothing short of remarkable. In 2014, more than 500 visitors from 21 countries toured the fully functional Duke Energy Smart Grid Lab and High Bay Structures Laboratory.

Energy Workforce Development

A source of particular pride at the center is the increasing emphasis on energy-related curriculum and increased student enrollment in energy courses. The number of energy students and energy-related projects has grown since 2010, with 35 percent of all senior design projects specifically related to energy. “With continued support from UNC Charlotte and industry partners, we have an incredible opportunity to continue making major contributions in energy education, research and economic development," says Johan Enslin, EPIC director.

“Our internship and co-op programs give students invaluable industry experience. Our associates and students won several notable grants and awards including a National Science Foundation CAREER awards. We’re also very excited about the incubator opportunities, resources and in-house capabilities we have to support area engineers and scientists in innovative work.” Recognizing the receptive climate and tremendous growth opportunities for nuclear energy that Charlotte USA offers, NuScale Power, designer of small module reactors (SMR), opened an operations and engineering center in the region in 2014. The company’s SMR light water nuclear power plants have applications in government and commercial sectors worldwide.

“We were attracted to Charlotte because of the proximity to our prospective client base, the significant talent pool of nuclear energy professionals in the region, and the ease of transportation access the Charlotte airport provides,” says Mike McGough, chief commercial officer for NuScale Power.

“NuScale is going to play an important role in the changing world of carbon free electricity," McGough says. "We expect between 36 to 52 power modules to be built each year by the end of the next decade. Having a workforce with the proper skill set, likes where they live, and located in a supportive community is very important to our success. We’re excited about Charlotte. It’s an easy place to recruit to, and we look forward to being here long into the future.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Lewis is an award-winning business journalist whose work has appeared in publications across the United States.