The greatest potential for reducing emissions lies in energy efficiency and in switching to renewable fuel sources. Although UNC has an efficient, award-winning cogeneration facility, coal is a carbon-intensive fuel. Co-firing coal with a solid biomass fuel is a potentially viable short-term strategy. Torrefied wood, a dense charcoal-like substance, has a high energy value and can be made from waste wood. The torrefaction process can also produce fuels from agricultural wastes. Pellets, or pieces, of torrefied fuels, with surface areas to facilitate combustion, will be test-fired with coal to assess the feasibility of burning this fuel in existing campus boilers. Chancellor Thorp has committed to end UNC's use of coal by 2020, and in fall 2010 and april 2011, the first pilot burns of torrefied & pelletized wood were completed.
Methane gas produced during decomposition at Chapel Hill’s Eubanks Road landfill has long leaked into the atmosphere. In 2009, UNC signed an agreement with Orange County to capture this methane gas, which traps 20 times as much heat as carbon dioxide. While the combustion facility is built, the gas is being flared to keep it out of the atmosphere. By 2013, electricity generated by the methane will power buildings at the Airport Drive complex. More buildings will be served by methane-produced electricity as the new Carolina North campus is built out. In 2012, a four-mile pipeline will take the gas to the new Carolina North campus, where a 1 MW generator will burn the gas for heat and electricity. The estimated 3.2 billion cubic feet of gas collected and combusted over the project's life will prevent the release of 600,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent to the atmosphere.
Solar energy technologies provide significant opportunities for space and water heating, and for generating electricity. The new Education Center at the North Carolina Botanical Garden is the first to sell solar- generated electricity back to the campus grid. Completed three-dimensional aerial maps indicate which campus roofs have the appropriate slope and orientation to accommodate solar energy technologies. Morrison dormitory on South Campus has implemented its own solar heating installation with help from RESPC.
Although North Carolina’s central piedmont is not rich in wind resources, the mountains and coast experience strong, steady winds that may be suitable for generating electricity. At the request of the North Carolina General Assembly, Carolina conducted a feasibility study of coastal wind potential in 2009. The assessment addressed ecological risks and synergies, available transmission capacity, carbon reduction potential, economics, and utility statutory and regulatory constraints. Preliminary findings indicate that there is potential for economically attractive, utility-scale production of wind energy off the coast of North Carolina and within the eastern Pamlico Sound. The study team recommended aggressive pursuit of offshore wind energy and careful study of new federal regulatory processes. The first commercial scale wind turbine will be built by Duke Energy in the eastern Pamlico Sound.
Other sectors, or emission-reduction wedges, addressed in the Climate Action Plan include new “green” development, improved efficiencies within the energy supply infrastructure, demand-side efficiencies in existing buildings, behavioral changes to reduce energy demand, enhanced waste management and purchasing practices, and more multi-modal transportation options. These areas are addressed in other sections of this website.
2011 Climate Action Plan
UNC Energy Services - http://www.energy.unc.edu
UNC's Climate Action Plan website - http://climate.unc.edu
North Carolina Botanical Garden - http://www.ncbg.unc.edu