Energy choices on campus

The Question for Chapel Hill: More pollution and greenhouse gas emissions or More use of solar power and energy efficiency at UNC?

WHAT: Chapel Hill Town Council public hearing and probable vote on upgrading the UNC coal plant.

WHEN: Monday evening, November 21st. 7 PM

WHERE: Chapel Hill Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd (formerly Airport Rd.)

WHY BE THERE: UNC is asking the Chapel Hill Town Council to permit the "upgrade of their power generation capabilities" at its coal plant. While UNC's co-generation plant is more efficient than most coal-burning power plants, the university admits that it expects to burn more coal at the plant than it does now. Burning more coal will produce more pollution and greenhouse gases. The university has not presented data on whether it could better meet its electricity demand by increasing the energy efficiency of UNC buildings and increasing its use of solar energy.


  1. Forward this alert to your friends and urge them to attend with you.
  2. Email or call members of city council and ask them to either

    a) postpone approval until the University submits a green energy solution that will reduce (or at least not increase) pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the plant, or

    b) make passage of the approval ordinance contingent on use of the most advanced pollution control technology, regular reporting to the public on its actions reduce pollution and emissions and to reduce its electricity demand.

To reach members of city council see

To learn more, please see this article in the Chapel Hill Herald which contradicts earlier statements (in the N&O) from the University that they would not burn more coal and therefore not increase emission.

For more information please contact:
• Joyce Brown,, 929-7781
• Tom Henkel,, 960-2589
• Pete MacDowell, NC WARN,, 968-9184
• Dennis Markatos, Students United for a Responsible Global Environment (SURGE),, 960-6886



According to Amory Lovins, cogeneration is one of the best energy choices available. I understand the concerns about burning coal (helped collect signatures for the Conservation Network petition in fact), but from what I've heard, UNC has a high quality scrubbing system and the ash release is not expected to generate enough mercury to exceed minimum limits set by EPA. Are you questioning these claims?

Given all the other outstanding environmental protections UNC implemented, I'm a bit perplexed by the opposition to the expansion of the cogen plant. In the larger scope of things, it seems to me like a very big positive since it reduces their use of Duke Power and contributes to the reduction in demand that could be used as justification for building another nuclear plant.

Shh, Terri, don't be reasonable. We don't like that in Chapel Hill.

See the letter to the editor in today's H-S about editorial cartoons. The writer takes a swipe at Chapel Hill. I guess that attitude passes for local sport.

I think the relevant quote from Rob's article is:

They say the plant's production of steam has increased along with campus growth, but they're not using as much of that increased steam as they could to produce electricity.

The university therefore wants to install a new turbine to get more power out of the steam, and also to upgrade the existing turbine.

If UNC is "just" trying to better utilize a wasted asset, the excess "heating" steam that could be used to produce electricity but isn't because of the lack of equipment, then this seems to be an intelligent upgrade.

If the new equipment requires steam (thus more coal or gas burning) in excess of the currently wasted allotment to effectively produce electricity, then we have a problem.

Does anyone have links to the detailed specs of UNC's proposal? Will the new turbine be an effective tool if limited to using the currently wasted capacity?

UNC is growing so its energy needs are increasing. There are limits to increases in efficiency. Eventually more fuel will be needed to take care of increasing energy needs. Everyone seems to agree that UNC's co-generation plant is environmentally preferable over relying on the utilities.

I agree that UNC needs to investigate how it can incorporate green building practices, including solar power, to its existing and future infrastructure. Can someone explain what can be hoped to be achieved in preventing UNC from increasing efficiency and taking care of its energy needs via its cogeneration plant?

Is this an attempt to secure promises from UNC to more aggressively adopt green practices? Or is it to prevent UNC from adding power capacity to its cogeneration plant? It's poor thinking if the aim is the latter for the sake of former.

Any successful political coercion based on preventing UNC from increasing efficiency and power production would have the effect of UNC connecting to the utilities grid, namely Duke Power, which we all agree destroys more environment per kilowatt hour than UNC's co-generation plant does.

Everytime UNC refurbishes an old building, they replace windows and make other low-impact energy upgrades. I don't know of any solar equipment. Is there a solar system that would tie into the current cogen system that would be cost efficient? If it isn't cost efficient, doesn't it then just become another factor in increasing tuition?

I'm not in any way arguing against alternative energies; I hope we can get the towns and the counties to explore options along with UNC. I just don't understand the purpose in slowing down approval of the cogen plant. Anyone want to educate me?

Here's a couple links to get everyone started:

This Nov. 9th, 2005 presentation Cogeneration Facility Improvements with this quote:

1. Insufficient capacity to serve critical facilities with self-generated electricity

•Increase in electrical generation capacity will capture more of the steam to produce additional electricity
•No additional boilers are required; the steam capacity of the plant is not increased
The efficiency of the plant is increased because steam can be used to generate
more electricity

This report has an interesting chart showing Ultimate Campus Growth requiring 142 mega-watts! Wonder if that includes all the lighting at Carolina-North?

An accompanying set of Speaking Notes

Finally, this bid for 20,000 tons of sorbent. Is that higher than last years?

What I haven't found, yet at least, is some kind of documentation showing that the new turbines will run effectively using the existing over-production of steam. The question still is "Will there be additional required steam production (thus more burning, etc.) for these new turbines to function at all?"

And, based on UNC's charts showing a leap in electricity requirements from 75 MW in 2005 to 100+ MW in 2006 (!!!),
"Will the increased electrical production from this 'recovered steam' provide those extra 25MW or will there be more burning?"

Long day...

The question still is "Will there be additional required steam production (thus more burning, etc.) for these new turbines to function efficiently?"

All of us who have had offices on campus for years have
told jokes about the way the buildings are heated or
cooled, with some extreme, almost comical excesses (freeze in the summer and roast in the winter, etc) . This dovetails
beautifully with the Lovens them that the best bang for the
buck in energy efficiency is on the demand side -- negawatts
cost less than megawatts. But to be fair, UNC has many older
buildings that need upgrading, and they do
improve each energy demand situation whenever possible.

Nonetheless, the campus building growth in the last decade,
perhaps 5 million new square feet added to the 14 million square feet of campus in the mid 90's, cannot be expected to function
without more energy. Especially when UNC has to play
catch up: Imagine still dealing with dorms that are not
air conditioned in central North Carolina when school now
restarts in August.

Then comes Carolina North, another
perhaps 7 million square feet. What we need here is to
watch out not only for its energy budget, but also the energy
external impacts, that is, what damage may be done in
delivering that energy to CN. Will there be new above-ground
major power lines? a rail spur for coal? a larger gas pipe?
This is one part of CN that we need to pay attention to.

Here's some interesting background if anyone's interested.

Months ago during the public hearings and discussions on the OI-4 zoning UNC requested the following be included in revisions:

That UNC does not have to provide any formal response to questions on “topics such as utility needs, how they plan to pay for projects, and why they need to build utility capacity instead of conserving energy."

I spoke against this provision and tried to generate discussion about it. No real takers at the time. But anyone looking a few steps ahead on the chessboard could see that obviously it is a good provision to request if you're planning to up coal-burning and toxic emissions and you don't want to answer questions about it---especially questions about the lack of pursuit of solar energy and other energy conservation efforts.

And Terri B.'s response that if energy conservation efforts (such as solar) are expensive the cost will only have to be passed onto the students is disingenuous. Really, the only way to make up the expense is to raise tuition for students? It is impossible to make up the difference by cutting costs elsewhere? Like maybe curtailing the fat raises given to top administrators almost every couple of years? Or NOT paying a top administrators their six-figure salaries even while they're NOT even working at UNC?

UNC's Douglas Crawford-Brown pushed the Town to join the Community carbon Reduction Project (CRed) and made it very clear that UNC and UNC's power plant would not be included in the pollution emissions studies and reduction plans. And, of course, just like the requested changes to the OI-4 zoning, this is also good positioning if you plan to up the emissions of a coal-burning power plant. And I predicted that this program would be used to deflect attention away from UNC's power plant emissions because undoubtedly their expansion plans would create the need for more coal-burning in order to generate more power to service expansions.

Before and during the campaign season I spoke against this program (for a myriad of environmentally based reasons) and asked the Town not to join unless UNC also agreed to join. If UNC also joined then this would mean the program's emissions studies would have provided us with a clear picture not only of UNC's power plant emissions as related to emissions from other sources in the Town but also data on just what UNC was doing to help reduce pollution from their operation vehicles and so forth.

The past incumbents disregarded all of my suggestions and voted unanimously to join without UNC being included. And just days after the Town joined this program UNC officials appeared before council requesting an SUP to expand power plant capacity.

I then appeared before council asking them not to grant the SUP unless UNC revealed their current amount of coal use so that we could determine if the expansion would entail more coal burning and requested that the Town not grant the SUP unless UNC also agreed to join the CRed program. At this meeting UNC officials said the expansion would not entail an increase in the use of coal but would only utilize an increase in natural gas use to generate more steam.

Of course common sense would tell anyone this was highly unlikely since natural gas is more expensive than coal and UNC is in constant need for ever increasing amounts of money for more expansion plans. And lo and behold after the election UNC officials then admitted that, yes, they do intend to increase the amount of coal-burning.

So here's the bottom line. Of course the Town will approve the expansion. UNC officials have already stated that even without the expansion they could increase the amount of coal burned at their existing facilities anyway—and stated they didn't need the Town's approval to do so. So the Town would gain nothing by not granting the expansion.

What the Town COULD do is make the SUP dependent on UNC joining the Cred program along with the Town. This, at least, would give citizens full disclosure (hopefully) and open discussions about pollution from UNC's power plant and it could also engender a push for future energy conservation measures by UNC (and maybe even lend more power to discussions of whether Carolina North should be scaled back in size due to infrastructure needs and costs—such as power and water).

And I would also like to add this information. The Neighborhood Resources Group (NRG) of which Laurin Easthom and Joyce Brown are regular attendees SUPPORTED the CRed program even without UNC joining even though I attended several of these meetings to educate them on the flaws of this program and also informed them of the detailed information on this program that was posted on my website. Not only were they not interested but Joyce Brown heatedly defended this program and attacked me for my stand on this issue. Ms. Easthom also stated her support of the program and even listed her support of the CRed program on her website. Tom Jenson's Progressive Students also supported the CRed program without UNC's participation.

In short, all the incumbents (included those who were voted back in) and newly elected Laurin Easthom all knew about and supported joining the CRed program even though it excluded UNC and UNC's power plant from emission studies and pollution reduction plans.

The granting of the SUP for the expansion is a done deal—but requesting that UNC join the CRed program as a condition of approval can still happen if people are serious about their concerns and show up to speak at the meeting. After all, the CRed program was proposed by a UNC professor and endorsed by UNC Progressive Students—so if it's such a great program why wouldn't UNC join along with the Town? If we are serious about examining and reducing air pollution obviously leaving out the local coal-burning power plant (and all the related discussions of whether UNC is conserving energy as well as possible) doesn't really make a lot of sense.

If past actions on OP prove consistent, my post will either be completely ignored or will be viciously attacked. I post only in the hopes that someone may read it (who isn't one of the handful of regular OP posters) who really is a person concerned about the environment and who thus may be inspired to ask questions and/or show up at a council meeting.

Robin, do you have any of the figures on previous or projected coal burning at the co-gen? I've googled a couple things but haven't found any historical bids put out on the State's bid system to gauge any increasing usage.

I know this is only a piece of the overall power discussion but it is worth saying anyway. Solar always sounds great on the surface, and believe me I wish Solar would work.

But, it won't in most cases. Look at the total power coming in from the sun (1 W/m2 as as I reacall) times the effciency of conversion and it winds up that if you could cover the entire planet with solar cells (good from the stand point of no more skin cancer, eh?) it still would not do Jack versus our demand.

So it is great to throw out Solar as some sort of feel good alternative, but when you actually do the numbers, reality sets in.

Sorry to be the bearer of reality.

For a mere $40,000 or so, plus or minus, I can make my house solar powered, if I have the acreage, (I don't) so that I can get off of the grid. Of course I cannot get off of the grid because my solar system is not perfect.

How about some real discussion from real engineering types about the alternatives??? Where are all the other techno types??

You're correct, in a way. Solar PANELS probably aren't the most efficient way to generate ELECTRICITY. But to look at the problem as a deficit of electricity is to only see part of the issue.

If buildings are designed in a way to make proper use of solar power, their heating and cooling needs (which on campus, are ultimately supplied by either our own coal burning or electricity produced on the outside) go down dramatically.

See this article on the renovations currently taking place at Morrison Dorm as a good example of a comprehensive approach the University should be taking on all of their buildings.

A note: Unfortunately, these changes had to come up from student demand, not down from a forward looking administration. I had to campaign hard last January and February to ensure that our Green Energy referendum, a student-funded initiative, would be renewed. All of the money for energy conservation and clean-generation projects on campus are coming directly from student fees or from matching grants that students have had to work hard to get. I'm not sure why our administration isn't willing to take the lead on this.

Correction: I think the article refers to the solar heating as photovolatic. Actually, it's a rather interesting system of sun-heated enclosures that run a super-heated oil through pipes to transfer energy to the water system. I can't find a good online reference to it, but it's rather ingenious from what I understand. I hope the system that was described to me by RESPEC is actually what we're putting in to place.


A few corrections:

1) You don't need huge acreage on which to locate solar panels - your roof will work just fine.

2) The first thing you do before installing photovoltaics is make your end uses more energy efficient. Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to reduce (provide?) energy needs.

3) Like Jason said, passive solar heating & daylighting can greatly reduce the amount of fuel needed. This technology needs no extra space.

4) I'm no engineer, but during the snow & ice storm of 2003 (or was it 02?), my house was one of just a handful that didn't miss a beat when the power was out for a week or so. I did have to sweep the snow off the PV panels on my roof the next morning , but then we were fine.

You cal it a "feel good alternative". I'm here to tell you it does feel food.

One aspect of solar power (as well as other alternative power supplies) that I particularly like is the idea of diversifying our energy supplies. It only makes sense to me to do so----I remember too many long winters when our electricity in our rural community was knocked out because of ice storms and such. Had it not been for our woodstove, we would have been in pretty dire straits.

Perhaps solar/wind/water power cannot solve all the energy needs of our planet, but it certainly makes sense to use as many renewable sources as is feasible.

I find it very frustrating when someone posts a discussion topic and then doesn't actively participate in the discussion. I really want to understand why Pete and others are so opposed to the upgrade to the cogen plant and how they perceive the offset between the coal (mercury) discharge vs the increased use of Duke Power (nuclear). It's an important issue.

I agree with their statement "Burning more coal will produce more pollution and greenhouse gases." But the (realistic) trade-off of depending more upon Duke Power comes with just as steep of an environmental price. How do we balance two negatives?


I don't see that the trade-off is more dependency on Duke Power. As I understand it, the main idea is for UNC to provide the public with information and assurances that they are incorporating energy-efficiency and renewables to the maximum extent reasonably possible before undertaking a project that will create more pollution.


The requests above asks Council to:

a) postpone approval until the University submits a green energy solution that will reduce (or at least not increase) pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the plant, or

b) make passage of the approval ordinance contingent on use of the most advanced pollution control technology, regular reporting to the public on its actions reduce pollution and emissions and to reduce its electricity demand.

Coal emissions are dangerous and I would like to see its use eliminated altogether. Mercury from the ash is highly dangerous for children (increased incidences of learning problems, etc.), pregnant women, and wildlife. But nuclear power is more dangerous and I trust Duke power less than I trust the university. The cogen plant is very energy efficient and if UNC didn't have good data on low-levels of release from the coal, I wouldn't be taking this position. But this isn't just a plain old coal burning operation and UNC is not environmentally irresponsible. So to me, any postponement of UNC's upgrade (given their high-level scrubbers) means that UNC is
demanding more from Duke Power, and gives Duke more data for justifying the new reactor/plant they want to build.

I'm not opposed to any recommendation from Council to UNC that they publish the reports they make to EPA and other regulatory agencies on output, nor am I opposed to encouraging the university along with all other local businesses/government operations to make better use of energy efficiencies and alternative sources. We all need to be good stewards and personally, but I think the university has demonstrated much more responsible stewardship than any other local entity with the exception of OWAS so I just don't understand the purpose of this petition.

> So to me, any postponement of UNC's upgrade (given their
> high-level scrubbers) means that UNC is demanding more from
> Duke Power, and gives Duke more data for justifying the new
> reactor/plant they want to build.

That doesn't strike me as a major concern. I don't think it's worth sacrificing the ability to push for a long term energy policy to get a short term gain by moving power consumption from Duke Power's dirty generation to our slightly-less-dirty generation.

I think that when the time comes for approval of a new power plant, it would just as easy to present numbers from UNC stating that they're going to be transitioning to lower power consumption and more eco-friendly on-site production to meet their needs. The justification for a new plant won't be based on current need, it will be based on projected need, and a reduction (or even stabilization) in the needs of UNC can (and should) play into those projected numbers.

UNC is one of the better large organizations when it comes to conservation. That's not an excuse to stop pushing the envelope and trying to make things even better. I don't think it's good environmental policy to strive for some threshold of energy efficiency and then immediately stop working to improve as soon as you've met that goal.

But Jason--cogeneration is an energy efficient technology!Who said anything about not "working to improve"? I'm just questiong the wisdom of delaying the upgrade of a facility that is already creating energy efficiencies and can with minimal time and expense provide more. Do you think holding cogen hostage is a good methodology for impacting public policy? The place to fight this battle IMHO is on Carolina North--not on the cogen plant. And BTW, I doubt if there will be a public hearing on Duke Power's request to build another reactor. The opportunity to impact that decision is by reducing demand now!
Cogeneration is a highly efficient means of generating heat and electric power at the same time. Frequently displacing energy consumption by making use of heat that would normally be wasted in the process of power generation, it reaches efficiencies that double, and sometimes almost triple, conventional power generation. Although cogeneration has been in use for nearly a century, in the mid-1980s relatively low natural gas prices made it a widely attractive alternative for new power generation. In fact, cogeneration was largely responsible for a major shift in the character of new power plant construction that occurred in the 1980s and continued into the 1990s. Cogeneration accounted for well over half of all new power plant capacity built in North America during that period.

The environmental implications of cogeneration stem not just from its inherant efficiency, but also from its decentralized character. Because it is impractical to transport heat over any distance, cogeneration equipment must be located physically close to its heat user. A number of environmentally positive consequences flow from this fact: Power tends to be generated close to the power consumer, reducing transmission losses, stray current, and the need for distribution equipment significantly. Cogeneration plants tend to be built smaller, and owned and operated by smaller and more localized companies. As a general rule, they are also built closer to populated areas, which causes them to be held to higher environmental standards. In northern Europe, and increasingly in North America, cogeneration is at the heart of district heating and cooling systems. According to some experts, district heating combined with cogeneration has the potential to reduce human greenhouse gas emissions by more than any other technology except public transit.

To understand cogeneration, it is necessary to know that most conventional power generation is based on burning a fuel to produce steam. It is the pressure of the steam which actually turns the turbines and generates power, in a process that is inherently less efficient than cogeneration. Because of a basic principle of physics no more than one third of the energy of the original fuel can be converted to the steam pressure which generates electricity. Cogeneration, in contrast, makes use of the excess heat, usually in the form of relatively low-temperature steam exhausted from the power generation turbines. Such steam is suitable for a wide range of heating applications, and can effectively displace the combustion of carbon-based fuels, with all their environmental implications.

In addition to cogeneration, there are a number of related technologies which make use of exhaust steam at successively lower temperatures and pressures. These are collectively known as "combined cycle" systems. They are more efficient than conventional power generation, but not as efficient as cogeneration, which produces power and heat in a ratio of approximately 2-to-1. Combined cycle technologies can be financially attractive despite their lower efficiencies, because they can produce proportionately more power and less heat. Environmentally, combined cycle systems are more controversial, because they are not as efficient as true cogeneration.

Well, they are planning to burn more coal, an estimated 25% more by 2010.

I can't see a downside to more scrutiny of these energy plans. I guarantee there are a whole lot of opportunities still left to save energy in the UNC system. UNC deserves credit for what they have done. It's a great start, but there is lots more potential. I see no harm in asking the questions that have been asked.

As I said earlier Mark, I see no downside to asking the questions. I just see a downside in postponing approval of the permit to upgrade the system that will bring about greater energy savings from the coal that is currently being burned.


I'm not opposed to cogeneration facility. You're right - at the moment, getting power from cogen is better than getting power from elsewhere. That doesn't mean I don't want to hold my university to the highest possible standard as we consider power options and look towards the future.

What I DON'T want is increased power output from this facility to be used as an excuse to drag our feet in implementing other energy conservation and alternative energy production measures. I'd like to think this won't happen, but the skeptic in me just says we need to proceed cautiously. Not negatively, just cautiously, and ensuring that UNC answers important questions about their proposals is a major part of that. I'm not saying no to expansion - I just want to make sure we all have adequate information about what's going on before we proceed.

If you haven't already, I hope you will each take the time to review UNC's Strategic Energy Plan published in October, 2005 - particularly Appendix D that lists energy projects with HVAC or energy efficiency componants.

Resources of both staff and finances have been dedicated to this work and we continue to work daily on the implementation of energy consumption reduction strategies.

We have a long way to go, as does the town and the majority of this country. The sharing of resources and support of collective vision must be the touchstones for our community as we move into the future. As it's said, "Together We Stand, Divided We Fall."

Hope these help!

Strategic Energy Plan:

UNC Sustainability Website

Mark %25 more coal to accommodate an increase from todays 75+ MW to 2010's 120+ MW? Incredible. Have you seen anything indicating that the usability of the new turbines is linked to additional coal burning? Is there any value in having the new turbines "just" to recover electricity from the currently wasted steam resource?

On another energy related note, here's another way to chip away at the energy mess:

Dear Chatham Neighbors,

Planning on deep frying a turkey for Thanksgiving? Don't know what to
do with your leftover cooking oil? Deep fat frying is a great way to
cook a very tasty turkey, but disposing of the oil is a pain because
liquids are banned from our trash here in Chatham County.*

Piedmont Biofuels Cooperative is happy to take your used fryer oil.
For your convenience, we have set-up two drop-off centers for used
cooking oil during the holidays. One is in the east, one is in the

+ Piedmont Biofuels Cooperative in Moncure:
(Click on "Co-Op")

+ Celebrity Dairy in Silk Hope:
(Please call in advance: 919-360-2492.)

Before donation, used cooking oil should be cooled, then poured back
into the original container. Neither of these locations have bulk
containers, so please make sure your oil is safely contained.

Also, Piedmont Biofuels Cooperative has a standing invitation for the
public to come by on Sundays at 1pm to learn how we make fuel out of
recycled fryer oil. The above link to directions also has more info
about tours, and info on joining the cooperative.

Happy holidays!

Sally is reporting the end of a 4 hour Council session. Any reports on what happened?

It was interesting. Sally made a motion to postpone until January and it passed 4-3 (Sally, Bill, Ed, Jim voting in the affirmative.) Kevin wanted to get it done with though, so he made a motion that would pass it tonight, but that would also require UNC to join in with CRED. Bruce Runberg agreed and it passed unanimously. So UNC got its permit and the town got a great commitment to carbon reduction from UNC. I couldn't really tell whether the many people both from UNC and from the Westwood neighborhood who came to the meeting were happy with the outcome or not.

Almost ten people came and expressed concerns about the permit- none came to speak out for it. Bruce Runberg, however, claimed that many people had called him and expressed their feelings that it should obviously be passed and they didn't understand why there was any discussion. I guess the silent majority not only doesn't vote, but also doesn't go to Town Council meetings :)

The town got a *greater commitment to carbon reduction from UNC, not a 'great' commitment as I wrote in the last post. I hope UNC is really committed to it but I'll believe it when I see it.

Darn! When I saw the assembled SURGE and Westwood folk I thought it was covered. Any mention on additional coal burning? I haven't seen any figures on the new turbine uptake of the "wasted" steam. Did UNC submit any more info?

You guys are doing the wrong math.

There is very little energy conservation effort on the medical center part of campus. e.g. there are no timers for lights anywhere nor is there employee education.

The real calculation is how much energy will university use if they pay more for it by buying it from Duke - will higher costs spur any conservation efforts? Will higher costs mean better building design at carolina north? Versus getting lots of cheap energy from burning coal yourself... At some point the CO2 emissions from burning lots of cheap coal yourself will equal using less energy more wisely from Duke as a mix of coal and nuclear. You also need to add into the equation that once a public entity pays lots of money upfront for a coal plant they will use it for decades. Theoretically if a better alternative energy source comes along they will not be able to switch due to the sunk costs. comparing X units of energy consumed at a lower price to X units of energy purchased today from Duke is the wrong longterm math...

If you believe market forces will drive state policy than paying more for energy might mean less is consumed.

What the council members correctly understood was that this SUP did not cover burning additional coal. The SUP was requested to add more equipment to the plant in order to increase the plant's electricity-producing capacity. Additional coal can be burned without permission. As Carolyn Efland explained, the desired upgrades were carbon-reducing, in that they would reduce the amount of electricity drawn from Duke Power. Doug Crawford-Brown reinforced that statement.

Carolyn also went through the list of energy-saving activities the University has been undertaking in response to the petition's request that more be required. She noted that several ideas they were exploring had a much longer than 10-year payoff, which was the benchmark suggested by one of the citizen speakers.

In the end, the Council picked up on the citizen's request for a partnership between the Town and University on CRed. Crawford-Brown seemed to be thrilled by that outcome although he noted that the University was already engaged in its own carbon reduction program (inventorying sources). He also noted that the campus Sustainability Council had decided last week that they are no longer satisfied with being an advisory council. By their own decision, with administration approval, they are now the campus policy board on sustainability issues.

The university's air quality consultant did assure the audience and Council that the university is using the best quality scrubbing equipment available. They are removing 99.8% of all particulate matter. But even that small amount is sufficient to create respiratory problems for the very young, the aged, and those with any kind of compromised health status. I hope the university will, at some point, look into increasing their use of natural gas and reducing their use of coal at the cogen plant.

There is a very large natural gas pipeline running right through the center of carolina north.... but there are also train tracks running right next to carolina north as well to carry coal...


In case you didn't attend/watch last night, the university said they would be looking at more renewable energy sources for Carolina North. The cogen plant was first built in 1992 and is expected to have a 50-year lifespan. They noted that they may choose to look for alternatives before then but that they need more than 15-years out of the current plant.

Interesting observations about energy conservation efforts at the hospital. I know they have just joined the university in the water reuse project (chiller plants) through OWASA so maybe they are preparing to take on more widespread conservation practices.


I am very familiar with the med center part of campus. There are lots of new buildings with very poor energy design and little conservation efforts. e.g. timers or putting thermostats on interior walls instead of exterior ones. (hot in winter cold in summer syndrome).

To say the only energy problems are with the "old" buildings makes one question the credibility of those before council....

FYI. Lyle clarified some of the finer points of bio-fuel use on OP a couple months ago (you know, when we were paying $3/gal. for our idling Town vehicles).

Dear Fellow Biofuels enthusiasts,

Internationalist Books in Chapel Hill is hosting a reading by Lyle Estill of Piedmont Biofuels,
from his book Biodiesel Power.

This book is a chronicle of our journey at Piedmont Biofuels, and is guaranteed to make you smile.

Please come for a reading/discussion of all things biodiesel.

The reading is at 3:00, Sunday December 4th---

Internationalist Books
405 W Franklin St
Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Interestingly enough, there has been quite a bit of discussion in SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) magazine about biodiesel and also ethanol blended gasolines.

While biodiesel is a feel-and sound-good thing amongst the ecologically aware, I would warn those who own diesel engined cars to check with their manufacturer before jumping in. There was some evidence given of some substantial problems with using biodiesel in many diesel engines. If you want the specifics visit or get their fall magazine issues- Sept, Oct, Nov. I am all for alternative fuels, reduced pollution, higher mileage etc. but there has been little or no discussion here and in the popular press, (beyond anecdotal), about the long term effects on vehicle performance. I do remember reading in SAE magazine of increased emissions and decreased fuel economy, which of course is counter productive to the goal of being "Eco".

Same thing with ethanol-gasoline blends. Trashing your car, reducing fuel mileage and increasing emissions in the name of "green fuel" is not really a good or productive thing.

FWIW, higher efficiency engines using "normal" fuels are on the way. It is a market driven thing, after all.

I for one will not touch a hybrid, too complicated and what are we going to do with all those heavy metal based batteries in 5 to 8 years?? Bring on the higher tech, normal motors.

To me bio fuel is about like solar, how many acres of corn do I need to grow to get to work every day? Do the numbers add up? If you look at those numbers then the outlook for biodiesel and ethanol blends is not so happy. I wish it were different, I really do, but the laws of physics and chemistry are dictating otherwise.

Drive less, turn off the lights and conserve what you have. Much better payback there.



Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.