This article was written for our sponsor, the North Carolina Military Business Center.

North Carolina has a diverse electric energy mix. In 2019, nuclear power was the largest fuel source for electricity generation, followed by natural gas.

More than 10% of the electricity in the state is produced from renewable resources. In fact, in 2019 North Carolina ranked second in the country after California for total installed solar capacity.

The U.S. military is the world’s biggest fossil fuel user. North Carolina is home to the fourth-largest military presence in the country, so a large portion of energy goes to the state’s numerous military installations.

The military uses both installation energy — the more traditional energy sources used to heat, cool and provide electrical power — and operational energy — the energy needed for training, moving and sustaining the military and its operations. Of the two, installation energy remains of primary importance.

Military bases are dependent on a power grid that is vulnerable due to aging infrastructure and weather-related events.

“In this state, we are very affected by natural disasters. For example, Camp Lejeune has had at least 15 different climate-related or natural disasters in the past 20 years, because they’re so exposed to the coast,” said Diane Cherry, an energy business development specialist with the North Carolina Military Business Center. “Energy resilience and energy security are major priorities, especially in the face of old legacy energy systems, like diesel generators.”

“In the case of a natural disaster, it’s very important for military bases to maintain power. The Army and Marine Corps have an imperative to sustain water and energy at installations for up to two weeks without relying on outside supplies,” she continued. “In other words, the bases must be energy resilient. Energy managers must identify which areas of the base are the most important for their critical mission and determine how they can keep power to those places.”

To aid in meeting energy resilience goals, the Department of Defense regularly announces funding opportunities for businesses to assist North Carolina’s military bases. NCMBC helps match these federal energy opportunities to local businesses that can provide that work.

“The bases are focused on adding clean technologies that help them maintain energy resilience and that is something North Carolina businesses can bid on”, said Cherry. “North Carolina has capacity in renewable energy and energy conservation, and both represent an important opportunity for businesses to engage in the federal marketplace.”

Cherry said major contracts are also found in providing direct delivery fuels to bases. This includes aviation fuel and commercial ground fuels at military stations.

The energy sector will continue to change in the coming years. For example, Cherry said the state of North Carolina holds immense potential for wind energy, and particularly for offshore wind. A recent study reported that East Coast offshore wind capacity will exceed 40 gigawatts by 2035 and that North Carolina may reap more than $100 billion in market opportunities. Already, one project is in the works now at Kitty Hawk, and two more offshore leases are available.

There’s no better time than now for North Carolina businesses to seek out federal energy contracts. Through the NCMBC, Cherry and other NCMBC staff regularly send businesses relevant opportunities, conduct webinars and provide one-on-one training.

“We are seeing a shift from fossil fuel use to sources such as solar and energy storage. Military bases have focused on fossil fuels for years and they have these legacy systems that need converting to newer technologies,” said Cherry. “With newer technology, bases bolster their energy resilience to natural disasters and unplanned outages. We’re seeing a seismic shift in the types of energy technologies being used, and there are plenty of opportunities when it comes to developing and implementing these new systems.”

This article was written for our sponsor, the North Carolina Military Business Center.