UNC to Stop Burning Coal: First Victory for Sierra Club Campaign

Submitted by Charles Frost on Fri, 05/07/2010 - 10:06.

by Sami Grover, Carrboro, NC, USA on 05. 7.10UNC coal plant photo
Image credit: IndyWeek

As far as college towns go, Chapel Hill in North Carolina has a fair few things going for it. From being the birthplace of crop mob, through free buses, to the admittedly controversial Greenbridge high-end eco-condos, there are plenty of folks in this town who are pushing innovative models for more sustainable communities. So it's always felt funny to me that slap-bang in the middle of town is a coal powered co-generation plant belonging to the University. But come 2020, that will no longer be a problem.

Earlier this week the University of North Carolina, accompanied by the Sierra Club and the North Carolina Energy Policy Council, made the announcement that it will begin phasing out coal burning from its plant, with the ultimate goal of being completely coal free by 2020.

According to the Carrboro Citizen, the phase out of coal at UNC's powerplant is going to be a gradual one. Tests will begin this spring co-firing wood pellets with coal, gradually increasing the ratio of woody biomass to coal, with a complete phaseout planned for 2020:

"The conversion to wood pellets won't happen overnight and won't happen strictly within the confines of the Cameron Avenue plant. Ray Dubose, director of the university's energy services, said in addition to major technical concerns, such as the effect of the new fuel on the furnace, there is as yet no established supply for the fuel.

The energy task force did hear from possible suppliers setting up in Virginia, but finding a source of fuel is one of the biggest unknowns about the conversion to biomass. The university also is entering the market as energy suppliers around the state are contemplating similar moves, Dubose said, making it difficult to estimate costs. For now, the goal is to use biomass for 20 percent of fuel consumption at the plant within two to five years."

This is being hailed as a significant first victory in the Sierra Club's campaign to get 58 universities nationwide to stop using coal as a fuel. You've got to start somewhere.

From: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/05/unc-stop-burning-coal.php

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We need environmentalists: UNC commits to end coal use by 2010

Thanks for posting this Bill - important news - if CWRU/MCCO follows similar suit my neighbohood and all the neighborhoods surrounding University Circle will be safer in a year or 2 and much safer in 10 years.

And I believe Cleveland Cliffs is already in the wood pellet/biomass business so there are good allignments that would mean environmentalism would not be the end of the world for all the rich old industry people in town... they'll still be the ones making the big money, but citizens will breath easier...

It is worth reading through the links to the source article, also highlighted and featured below, from the Carrboro Citizen...

UNC commits to end coal use by 2020

Speaking atop the green roof of Rams Head Plaza, Thorp said universities should take a leadership roll in finding solutions to a conversion to renewable fuels.

“Universities must lead the transition away from fossil fuels to clean energy,” the chancellor said.

Bruce Niles, who heads up the Sierra Club’s national Beyond Coal campaign, hailed the decision as a significant first victory in the environmental organization’s effort to get 58 universities nationwide to stop using coal as a fuel.

Thorp praised student organizers for their approach to the effort. The result, he said, was a productive dialogue and a workable solution.

Toben said the university’s commitment and the speed with which it worked is an example for others. He cited an email sent to him Tuesday morning by NASA scientist and climate-change authority James Hansen, who spoke about coal use on campus in February.

“UNC-Chapel Hill is a model for how students and a university can work together with a civil constructive approach to ending our national addiction to coal. It is good to see a university demonstrating the rational approach to problem solving,” Hansen wrote. “We need to somehow overcome the uncivil discourse that has infected current politics.”

.../...

While the conversion is tested, Thorp said the university is negotiating a new round of coal contracts. He said the university would attempt to seek assurances and third-party verification that coal used at the plant did not come from mountain-top mining, another concern raised by the Sierra Club.

The energy task force’s report is available at unc.edu/chan/chancellors/thorp_holden/energytaskforce.php

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