Friday, January 21, 2011

Industry commits big $ for Energy Center

By Lisa A. Patterson
In the midst of bleak economic news and in what is shaping up to be a frigid winter, the good news of an $8.8 million financial commitment from Duke Energy and Siemen’s Energy to UNC Charlotte’s Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC) comes at the right time. The announcement was made today at the Charlotte Business Journal’s Energy Leadership Awards event.

EPIC represents the positive outcome that is possible when academia, industry and government cooperate to tackle a problem or seize an opportunity. The forward-thinking people behind EPIC, including University administrators, energy industry leaders, local and state government officials, understand that the future of energy production in the United States is a major economic and national security concern.
Some facts:
• By 2012, roughly half of the engineers and technicians in the energy industry today will be eligible to retire. These are the people running our current fleet of plants. This number does not account for any new facilities.
• A 2009 survey of energy and engineering firms done in the Carolinas showed that they will need in excess of 3,000 engineers in the next five years to meet the demands of their industry. Remember, these are just companies in the Carolinas.
• As the United States looks toward the development of renewable energy, the gulf widens between the level of need and the engineering talent available.
• The same kinds of expert mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering skills needed to produce fossil fuels and nuclear energy are at the core of alternative energy technologies as well.
• According to the American Association of Energy Engineers, more than 40% of energy professionals plan to retire in the next 10 years.

Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers and Siemens Energy Director of Operations for Charlotte Mark Pringle joined Chancellor Philip L. Dubois and North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco to make the announcement. According to the press release, “the combined support from the two companies will provide engineering scholarships, advance research capabilities in Smart Grid and precision manufacturing, provide access to large-scale manufacturing equipment and enable recruiting of key faculty in power engineering disciplines.”

Rogers said EPIC will help transform Charlotte from an energy hub into the nation's energy capital.

The State of North Carolina will add to Duke Energy’s $4.5 million contribution with another $667,000. Siemens Energy is providing $4.3 million in support.
UNC Charlotte is uniquely positioned in the heart of a region that is rapidly becoming “The New Energy Capital” in America. As a region and as a University we are answering the call for energy engineering talent and research through EPIC. This generous financial commitment from Duke Energy and Siemens Energy will contribute to our students’s education, the economic health of the region and the energy needs of the country and potentially beyond.

Lisa Patterson is senior writer in the Office of Public Relations.

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