As a primary initiative of the Building the Clean Energy Economy in Western North Carolina project, a collaboration of key regional organizations representing 31 counties throughout Western North Carolina (WNC), a five-phase study was completed by AngelouEconomics over the course of several months. The purpose of this study was to identify and evaluate any potential clean energy industry clusters that may exist within Western North Carolina and to develop a strategy for the growth and support of the clean energy industry within the region.
Beginning with a robust stakeholder engagement process that included over twenty one-on-one interviews and seven focus groups as well as an extensive literature review of previous clean energy reports and regional economic analyses, the project team conducted an evaluation of the clean energy asset base found within the 31-county region of Western North Carolina. This, along with industry trend analysis and numerous site visits conducted by the project team, served as the foundation for the evaluation of the region’s existing clean energy clusters and its capacity to support future growth in the industry.
At the conclusion of the five-phase study, the project team found that not only does Western North Carolina offer many of the elements that are critical for the support of the clean energy industry, but that a collection of clean energy industry clusters have already formed in certain portions of the region. This offers a natural base for the growth and attraction of clean energy companies within Western North Carolina and is a source of significant competitive advantage for the region and the state. However, the region is not without its challenges and it will take a concerted regional effort and decisive leadership to take the region from its current position as a clean energy growth center to its potential as a national, or perhaps even international, clean energy industry hub.