UNCP gets more solar power

By: Scott Bigelow

PEMBROKE – As students return to school in August, they will notice several very visible steps to conserve energy at UNC Pembroke. As the school year continues, there will be a flurry of initiatives aimed at reducing the university’s carbon footprint.

A solar-powered “smart table” has been installed on the Bookstore patio. Students can recharge their mobile devices day or night courtesy of the sun, battery backup and the LED (light emitting diodes) night lights.

Two additional new car-charging stations will be available to power up UNCP’s growing fleet of electric autos. Last year, UNCP became the first university in North Carolina to partner with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Workplace Charging Challenge installing two car-charging stations with solar power offset. Located in front of Lumbee Hall, they welcome visitors to campus.

One new charging station is located off Odom Road behind Moore Hall in Lot 6 and the other in front of the Jones Athletic Center, in Lot 14, off University Drive, said UNCP’s sustainability director Jay Blauser. “When they are not charging automobiles, they are supplying clean, renewable, carbon-free energy into the university’s electric grid,” he said.

Later in the 2015-16 academic year, UNCP will implement a $1.3 million LED lighting replacement program in a public-private partnership with Johnson Controls. With a seven-year payback, LEDs save energy, maintenance and replacement costs. The project is part of a $26 million UNC system program at 14 state universities.

UNCP’s Office of Sustainability, which recently completed its first campus greenhouse gas inventory, is positioning the university to be carbon neutral by the year 2050. The baseline numbers are being reviewed by UNCP’s Sustainability Council and will be released this fall. Town hall meetings and surveys will follow to provide input into a campus “strategic sustainability plan.”

“The race is on to reduce our carbon footprint,” Blauser said. “In July, our first car-charging station reduced our carbon output by 452 pounds, the equivalent of five healthy trees.”

The UNC system collectively aims to save $1 billion in energy costs by 2020, and it is on track to surpass that goal, having saved $103 million during the 2014-15 school year, Blauser said.

“This is what we learned at the Fourth Annual Appalachian Energy Summit this summer,” he said of the gathering of UNC’s Energy Leadership Challenge. “UNC Pembroke will host the mid-year summit in February. We are very excited about it.”

Food has an important role to play in future savings, local health and social impact. UNCP, with the help and support of students has joined the North Carolina 10% Campaign, with the goal of buying at least 10 percent of its food locally. The Robeson County Cooperative Extension Service is a partner in this program, which not only provides health and environmental benefits, but also boosts the local economy.

UNCP, student volunteers and its Offices of Community and Civic Engagement and Sustainability are partnering with the Food Recovery Network and Sodexo Food to donate food overruns to local soup kitchens. This summer, the campus ran a pick-up site for a local CSA or Community Supported Agriculture program, which sells locally grown vegetables, eggs and beef in a weekly basket.

“With these programs, we are promoting the use of locally-grown food, and reducing food waste to deliver it to where it is needed,” Blauser said. “These programs reduce our carbon footprint by reducing transportation costs, promote the local economy, reduce waste and help solve a local hunger problem.”

Several programs are planned. The joint 9/11 Day of Service-Arbor Day tree planting on campus is September 12. A tree care plan is also being developed to promote the health of the campus trees and to qualify the university as a certified Tree Campus USA school.

When the university constructs the new Student Heath Center, it will be the second LEED silver building (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) on campus. University planners expect a fall groundbreaking.

Academics will become more sustainable too with a new interdisciplinary minor available n the fall semester of 2016. It will give students an opportunity to learn more about the connection between the global economy, social and ecological systems.

Programs to save energy dollars ramping up

Scott Bigelow

For information about these or other programs, contact the Office of Sustainability at (910) 775-4576 or email jay.blauser@uncp.edu.

For information about these or other programs, contact the Office of Sustainability at (910) 775-4576 or email jay.blauser@uncp.edu.