Solar energy is on parade at the Raleigh Convention Center this week as the capital city plays host to the American Solar Energy Society’s 40th annual conference.

Drawn to Raleigh by the state’s growing alternative energy sector as well as North Carolina state legislation that requires utility firms to utilize solar and other sources for power, the ASEC and local partners are putting on a daily program of seminars and panel discussions about trends, opportunities and advances in the industry.

The Triangle also is a fast-growing hub for smart grid and other clean tech energy companies.

The conference, which is the solar industry’s largest, opened Wednesday and concludes Saturday with a “Public Day.” From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., citizens can tour the exhibit area and talk with companies about how to utilize solar and alternative energy in homes and offices.

Some 170 companies are participating in the event.

Alternative energy companies in North Carolina employed more than 12,000 people in 2010, according to a survey conducted by the NC Sustainable Energy Association. That number was double the total of a survey taken two years earlier, and companies said they planned to grow by 30 percent in 2011, said spokesperson Julie Robinson.

For details about the program, read here.

Get the latest news alerts: Get the latest news alerts: Follow WRAL Tech Wire at Twitter.