In Push for Smart Grid, a New Silicon Valley Emerges in North Carolina

World Economic Forum/CC BY-SA 2.0

From Renault-Nissan opening an R&D lab in Silicon Valley to Google and IBM positioning themselves as players in our energy future, many tech observers have been keeping their eyes on Silicon Valley as the place to watch when it comes to smart grid technology.

But GreenTech Media reports that in my own neck of the woods the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina has been rapidly emerging as a rival to Silicon Valley:

The Triangle includes nearly 60 companies doing smart grid work in the region, 20 of which are headquartered there, according to a report from Duke University (PDF). Raleigh, the city at the heart of the Triangle, has five smart grid companies headquartered there, more than any other U.S. city except San Francisco with six. (That’s one reason we chose to hold our Networked Grid 2012 conference there this April.) And while the research didn’t get specific on jobs, the report set a conservative estimate of 3,000 in smart grid for the complex of companies, universities and government-funded projects in the Triangle’s 13-county area.

According to GreenTech, Triangle-based smart grid players include Elster, Sensus, ABB, GE, Siemens, Cisco, Honeywell, Johnson Controls, and AT&T and Verizon. It might be tempting to assume that in an interconnected, virtual world such as ours, the physical location of companies matters less than it used to—but I am not sure that's the case. As a community builds its collective identity around a vision for the future—it attracts investment, energy and talent that becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Watch this place.

Tags: Communities | Economics | Electricity | North Carolina | Smart grid | United States