Even in this challenging economy, "green" jobs and businesses are growing, several community leaders say.
And as Charlotte has positioned itself as an energy efficiency capital of the Southeast, the counties to the north of Charlotte have been home to new kinds of jobs, with many focused on green techniques.
"We have highly educated professional folks in the Lake Norman area bringing ideas and innovations to this movement," said Kathleen Rose, executive director of the Davidson-based Project for Innovation, Energy & Sustainability.
Nowhere is the green revolution as evident as at Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont's job center. From 2008 to 2010, the number of students in their green construction program grew from 62 to 141, a 127 percent increase.
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"Entry-level requirements in construction are shifting toward people who have an understanding of green techniques, such as installing solar panels," said Michael Elder, the president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont.
Meanwhile, Mecklenburg and Cabarrus county's unemployment rates have hovered around 10 percent since January, with industries such as mining, manufacturing, education and government facing year-over-year declines. But "green" jobs are increasing.
"It's the only sector that's actually seeing notable expansion," said Shawn LeMond, vice president and chief operating officer of the Davidson-based Sustainable Energy Community Development Company.
Rising energy costs, the Great Recession and a more environmentally conscious population have caused the shift toward green jobs, she said.
"Everyone's looking to lower their expenses and improve their bottom line," said Rose.
Green industries such as solar panels, energy-efficient light bulbs and more help the economy in two ways, said Richard Lloyd-Roberts, a partner at Eco Revolution.
Eco Revolution specializes in replacing incandescent lights with greener lighting, such as LED bulbs.
First, the energy emphasis saves the consumer money because the green product is expending less energy, he said.
Lloyd-Roberts recently replaced 5,500 bulbs in a CPCC parking garage in uptown Charlotte with the greener induction lamp. He said the switch will reduce energy consumption by 50 percent.
Going green will also help create an unprecedented amount of jobs in the coming years.
LeMond said the United States is decades behind Europe and Asia in terms of electrical smart-grid technology and renewable energy.
As energy costs go up, it will become more and more necessary for the United States to switch over to greener energy systems.
"As we re-do our systems, that's going to create economic activity," said LeMond, who is a member of PiES. "It could be what pulls us out of the economic doldrums."
Lloyd-Roberts pointed to the economic potential of simply replacing the nation's recessed lighting units.
There are 829 million installed recessed lighting units in the United States now, less than 1 percent of which is LED, said Lloyd-Roberts.
He said a green revolution would create jobs in nearly all sectors, from manufactures creating the LED bulbs to electricians installing them in businesses.
"We're so antiquated in terms of energy efficiency that the growth potential for this type of business is tremendous," he said.