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Energy in our Buildings

Jun 23, 2023Jun 23, 2023

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

The energy it takes to power our buildings—homes, schools, businesses--is an important part of Raleigh’s Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP). For the City, energy is also one of our largest operating expenses. We can improve the impacts of our energy use on climate change by using less energy (conserving energy), reducing the amount of energy it takes to do what we need to do (using energy more efficiently), or reducing the amount of carbon released from the energy we use (using renewable energy).

The City of Raleigh has several energy initiatives. We work on energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. We are committed to improving how we use energy and using new energy technologies in order to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and save money for our residents.

The City applies high standards for energy efficiency for all new municipal buildings and building upgrades. We also test and apply new technologies with the potential to provide energy savings, while maintaining the same level of service and safety for our residents.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Buildings

Since 2007, the City of Raleigh has had a policy that new municipal buildings over 10,000 square feet be certified at least at LEED Silver levels. LEED is an internationally recognized certification system for energy efficiency and environmental design. The City will also seek LEED Gold or Platinum Certifications where practical and when funding is available.

We are also prioritizing energy efficiency improvements to existing City buildings. Construction and additions of less thank 10,000 square feet will not necessarily seek LEED Certification, but will be designed to those same standards for energy efficiency.

LEED Certified Municipal Buildings in Raleigh:

These buildings have more natural light, passive environmental controls and other features that not only conserve energy but also make them more pleasant for occupants and users.

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)

Light-emitting diodes are an energy efficient source for lighting both interior and exterior spaces. These lights contains no mercury or other toxic substances as found in other types of lightbulbs. LEDs produce light more efficiently than standard incandescent bulbs, fluorescent lights, and other technologies such as high pressure sodium lamps and metal halide lamps commonly used in outdoor lighting. The bulbs also last up to fifteen years. Since 2006, Raleigh has expanded its use of LED bulbs and the use of this technology saves approximately $215,000 per year in energy and maintenance costs. A few of these projects are detailed below:

Renewable energy is clean and naturally occurring. It includes biomass, solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric power. These alternative energies add to Raleigh's energy security and can save the City money over time. In 2016, Raleigh partnered with the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association on an Renewable Energy Assessment of potential renewable energy technology opportunities in the City’s operations, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and provide cost savings.

Solar Energy

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) collects the suns rays and turns it into electricity. This process is made possible through the production of free electrons when the solar PV panels are exposed to light. These free electrons are channeled to create an electrical current.

Where is Raleigh using Solar PV?

Solar Thermal

Solar thermal energy is the process of concentrating sunlight to create high temperatures needed to heat or vaporize fluids, such as water, to drive a turbine for electric power generation.

Where is Raleigh using Solar Thermal?

These solar thermal installations have been an efficient, effective solution to reduce energy consumption.


Geothermal heating and cooling systems use ground temperatures as an energy source for heating and cooling comfort. Though outdoor temperatures fluctuate throughout the year with seasonal changes, ground temperatures four to six feet below the Earth's surface remain relatively moderate and constant year-round.

During the heating cycle, the water circulating through the l system extracts heat from the ground. The geothermal unit compresses the extracted heat to a high temperature and, delivers it to the facility through a heat system. The process is reversed for the cooling cycle. Because the earth is much cooler than the air temperatures on a hot day, the geothermal system removes heat from a business or residence and deposits it into the ground. Also, some of the heat that is removed by the geothermal system can be used to heat water.

This highly efficient way of heating and cooling has been installed at some City of Raleigh facilities.

Where is Raleigh using Geothermal energy?

The final method the City applies is Energy Conservation. Here again, we rely on technology and design to generate energy and cost savings.

We utilize occupancy sensors and other sophisticated building automation systems to manage energy use in our buildings. This ensures that when staff are not present, we are not unnecessarily using energy. These systems also diagnose problems to prevent energy waste.

As mentioned above, in many municipal buildings we utilize passive solar design such as large windows that allow in natural light and the use of building materials to absorb or deflect solar radiation and use it to limit energy usage within buildings.

North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association

Department of Energy, Renewable Energy

Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency

US Green Building Council

Energy Star

Environmental Protection Agency

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

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