Building America’s New Energy Center

Monday, January 27, 2020

One of the signature initiatives of Chancellor Philip L. Dubois’ tenure, the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC) at UNC Charlotte is a collaborative effort between the University and industry to produce the nation’s most qualified energy engineering workforce and partner to solve the world’s energy challenges.

In the early 2000s, the Charlotte region was becoming home to many leaders in the energy industry. Groups like Siemens and ABB joined companies already based in the region, such as Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas. The companies had one thing in common, a growing need for engineers. Business leaders in Charlotte had proposed an academic and research program that would respond to the growing workforce demand and the need for more efficient energy solutions.

Persuaded by rising energy prices and industry executives that a strong program was needed in North Carolina, the legislature allocated $76 million for the construction of the EPIC building and $5 million a year in recurring money for 37 new energy-related faculty positions. As the University’s largest academic building at 200,000 square feet, the new facility provided the classroom, office and laboratory space needed for the program to thrive.

At a chilly evening ceremony on January 26, 2010, with the four corners where EPIC would be built illuminated, Chancellor Dubois said, “We depend on reliable and affordable energy. But there is a significant challenge inherent in our need for energy — people — the right people to provide that energy. We are answering the call for energy engineering talent and research through EPIC.”

Charlotte’s Energy Think Tank

This interdisciplinary initiative in the William States Lee College of Engineering includes Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering and Engineering Technology. 

Remarking on high-tech equipment donated by Orano, a global nuclear fuel company, Dubois later said, “EPIC is certainly much more than an academic building. It’s a catalyst for economic development and a shining example of how business and industry can come to the University as a reliable source of technical expertise.”

Enthusiastic about the partnership, companies like Duke Energy, Siemens, Westinghouse, Shaw, and Areva actively contributed to the building’s design and contributed $12 million to construction, infrastructure, and facilities. 

"It's an energy think tank. EPIC is where theory meets reality," said Jim Little, a former energy executive, and a member of the EPIC board of advisors. "I see EPIC as a place industry can turn to when they need a new and creative solution," he noted. 

In its first seven years, EPIC successes included developing high-quality academic and research programs, building state-of-the-art laboratories, and providing industry partners with the workforce development and research program they needed. Today,  EPIC enjoys a strong reputation as an engine in Charlotte’s efforts at becoming “America’s New Energy Center.”