In N.C.: Seeking profits from renewable energy

MILLERSVILLE, N.C. _ For all the headaches in running a small hydroelectric power plant, Allen Haneline doesn't regret joining North Carolina's ranks of minor energy moguls.

Beaver-gnawed sticks float down the Lower Little River northeast of Hickory and wrap around Haneline's circa-1919 turbines, the guts of a plant he bought three years ago. “You can literally see the kilowatts fall,” he said. As owner, operator and chief mechanic, he dons waders, descends into a room below the dam that leaks water with the force of a fire hose, and sets to work. Cleared of debris, the turbines whirl again and pollution-free electricity races off to Duke Energy's lines.

Haneline is among a rising number of N.C. entrepreneurs hoping to wrestle energy – and profits – from the sun, wind, water and organic wastes. Their output, called renewable energy, is still so small that it's barely measurable against the coal- and nuclear-fueled power that dominate the state. But they have reason for optimism and investment.

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